Category Archives: Finance/Banking


By The Majlis


There have now surfaced an abundance of evidence to confirm that Bitcoin is a massive scam set in motion by U.S.A. conspirators. It is a great step forward to achieve total control of the world’s economy by abolishing real currency and replacing it with a ghost ‘currency’.


The following is just one article from numerous others compiled by experts in the field.

Just how low will the financial manipulators crash Bitcoin after pushing it to $20,000?

Make no mistake about it, the engineered and ongoing crash of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin was deliberately timed to begin in earnest just before the Christmas holiday. And it has all gone down so soon after Bitcoin hit a record high of $20,000 on December 17th when the perps artificially inflated its price via high-frequency trading, futures manipulation, and other financial engineering tricks.

Is the BITCOIN bubble bursting in real time? The financial manipulators who planned this unparalleled crypto-collapse did so with great stealth and co-ordination.  Who else could have driven the price of Bitcoin into the crypto-market stratosphere so quickly but the international banking syndicate headed by Goldman Sachs?

Crypto-Carnage: CME Bitcoin Futures Halted Limit-Down
Who is really behind this controlled demolition? Everyone ought to know the answer to this question by now: the BANKSTERS.

And here’s a highly authoritative article that was published by The Wall Street Journal which shows when the banksters actually grabbed a hold of the Bitcoin cryptocurrency platform: Goldman a Lead Investor in Funding Round for Bitcoin Startup Circle

Just as Goldman was the chief financial engineer behind the controlled demolition of the stock market during the Fall of 2008, the same banksters are now demolishing Bitcoin.

Bitcoin plummets in highly volatile trading
It ought to be quite obvious to those folks who did not mortgage their homes to join the Bitcoin rush of 2017 that this pre-holiday demolition was executed with purposeful design.

While so many travel to and fro during this holiday season when drivers, flyers and train passengers are already frazzled and frayed by both the Atlanta Airport power outage and Amtrak train derailment onto Washington State’s Interstate 5, distraction and anxiety about traveling is at an all-time high this year.

Why was an Israeli cargo plane the only one permitted to depart Atlanta during the power outage?
AntiFa bragged about pouring concrete on railroad tracks near Tacoma  

Were these distractions deliberately fabricated during the exact time frame when Bitcoin began its precipitous descent?   And were they also meticulously timed to occur between the hectic period between Thanksgiving and Christmas?

This is exactly how and when the banksters perpetrate their biggest heists—using distraction, diversion and misdirection. They have complete control of the USA and can stage any hoax or false flag operation or terrorist attack when and where they so choose to. Hence, the true cause and timing of every major event during December must be carefully considered in order to correctly comprehend this complex financial black operation. Any rapidly evolving psyop as multi-faceted and captivating as the Bitcoin rip-off is assured to have profound and far-reaching repercussions.

What’s the point of this massive controlled demolition? There are actually a number of critical goals that the banksters would like to accomplish. The more salient objectives are as follows:

After conning investors to move their hard-earned money from gold and silver metals into cryptocurrencies, the banksters can wipe out that investment capital for good so that it is no longer available to support the price of gold.

Such a meteoric and devastating crash of Bitcoin will fully convince the legislators that the time is way past due to impose a strict regulatory regime on all cryptos, not just Bitcoin. In this way, the banksters will effectively control them all–forever.

•  The tremendous degree of conversion of U.S. dollars into Bitcoin is serving to remove a prodigious volume of inflationary petrodollars from the global marketplace. The more Bitcoin buying that occurs on dollar-denominated exchanges, the more US dollars will be eliminated that were produced during the successive cycles of quantitative easing.

(The prime suckers and morons ensnared into this massive trap and swindle are the numerous moron multi-billionaires of the Saudi royalty and the other oil-rich morons of the Gulf States, etc. Bitcoin has been created to pirate off and eliminate the trillions of worthless U.S. dollars. –  The Majlis)

A final crash of the largest cryptocurrency like Bitcoin will set the stage for the FED to institute their new “Fedcoin” as a stable alternative to Bitcoin and Litecoin. Such a dubious move will be explained as a means of preventing naked abuse like this: Litecoin Founder Cashes Out, Sells Entire Stake After 9,300% Rally  

The most significant reason for the supernova explosion of Bitcoin and other cryptos is the normalization of cryptocurrencies. Only in this fashion will they become sufficiently acceptable to people everywhere, whereupon a global digital currency can be established before it’s imposed worldwide via manufactured consent. Even The Economist magazine predicted the introduction of a “world currency” in 2018.

There has never been such an enormous swing in the pricing of any commodity or currency, with such great worldwide import, particularly in the span of just 4 days. There is another HUGE war going on in the background between the BRICS-allied nations and those affiliated with the Zio-Anglo-American Axis. In fact, this ongoing global conflict is reaching a crescendo, especially between the Russia-China partnership and their Anglo-American opponents. The colossal collapse in the Bitcoin price is directly attributed to this clash of civilizations, which is taking place out of existential necessity. The BRICS are grimly aware of the planetary destruction that is transpiring because of Bitcoin mining and are determined to stop it.

If the reader has not figured it out by now, perhaps it’s time to read: BITCOIN BUBBLE: Not if but when it will pop

That Bitcoin will eventually go all the way to $0.00 is practically guaranteed in light of the fact that there’s NO underlying value whatsoever to the cryptocurrency. After all, isn’t that why it’s called a CRYPTOCURRENCY?!

To better understand this highly misunderstood monetary phenomenon, currency investors are encouraged to consult the following exposé: Cryptocurrency Platforms: Owned & Operated by the Banksters

One thing is for sure in the course of this unfolding scam: there will be more than one major sucker’s rally before Bitcoin crashes and burns for good. And it looks like the perps may be setting up the next round of suckers at this very moment.

(Reference: State of the Nation, December 21, 2017)

Cryptocurrency Platforms: Owned & Operated by the Banksters

Digital Currencies Represent the Ultimate Control Mechanism  Over the Global Money Supply

Especially after the fiat currencies crash around the world due to the collapse of the petrodollar will the cryptocurrencies be used as a bridge to establish a new global monetary regime of digital currency.

The comment posted below was written by “Counter Analysis” under the following article:

Evidence Points to Bitcoin Being an NSA-Engineered Psyop to Roll Out One-World Digital Currency  

His analysis is right on target and cannot be disputed.

The power elite would never have permitted the rollout of the various cryptocurrencies unless they exerted complete control over them. And so they do. That they are now traded on the futures market indicates that cryptos are here to stay, as long as they can be totally controlled by the ruling elite. The primary reason for the unparalleled explosion of the BITCOIN market is to get everyone’s attention, which it has. Bitcoin has been around long enough so that investors everywhere have the necessary comfort level to dabble in it. Which many now do.

Regardless of who is really buying Bitcoins, OR SELLING IT SHORT, the cryptocurrency can either continue its supernova run in the firmament of currency investments, or it can disappear overnight should the regulators decide to crack down on it hard.  Which they can do at any time. It’s much more likely that the moneychangers at the very top of the global financial pyramid will keep this new charade going until all paper and coin currency is history, and a global digital currency is firmly in place.

This is the single most important item on the New World Order agenda — stealthily manufacturing consent toward the universal acceptance of a global digital currency. And this globalist goal must be accomplished before their planned One World Government can be established.

Do you see how all the pieces of the NWO puzzle are now conveniently falling into place? (State of the Nation, December 12, 2017)

N.B. The following comment offers an accurate and penetrating analysis of the crypto purpose behind the cryptocurrencies. Everybody is encouraged to pass it around … just in case the supernova does disappear with everyone’s hard-earned money.

Thank you. I’ve been hoping someone would write an expose on this subject. If the deep state were not behind cryptocurrencies, they would be outlawed. Instead they are going to be traded in the futures markets. Nearly half of bitcoin is controlled by a mere 1000 people. This makes it ripe for manipulation like a thinly traded stock, yet I doubt there are any regulations outside of futures exchanges concerning bitcoin manipulation.

I totally agree cryptocurrencies are the approach being taken to acclimate, and disarm people to digital currencies. Whatever features of bitcoin you praise, those features (supposed anonymity, lack of central exchange, etc.) will likely be excluded from the coming digital currency.

Having been previously exposed to digital currencies, a desperate world reeling from banking collapse will embrace a new reset digital currency if it restores their lost wealth, unfreezes credit, gets commerce and food trucks moving again, saves industry (jobs), and provides guaranteed income since many will have lost their jobs. It will be a huge miracle after the intense fear, dread, and panic of banking and currency collapse.

Digital currency enables govt to confiscate or freeze all wealth of anyone at will. Impose negative interest rates that cannot be escaped by bank runs. Makes bank runs impossible. There will be no limit on central bank chicanery. Since all currency remains always in the bank, there will be no limit on fractional reserve banking.

All digital currency will likely be deposited in one central bank clearing house. All other banks and bank branches will not be in the business of holding deposits. They will be in the business of providing the interface with the central bank, and with authorizing credit and lending. So when you buy goods and render payment with your digital currency that resides in your account at the central bank, it transfers to the sellers account at the central bank  and the currency never leaves the central bank for even a split second. Banking collapses are now impossible baring some kind of technological collapse or the wiping out of ledgers, but even then, the central bank will be back up and running as soon as the physical technology backbone is restored. And with block-chain tech, wiped out ledgers could be rebuilt after a hack or temporary bank take-down. Just imagine the identifying information that will be included in the new blockchain that currently does not exist in cryptocurrency block-chain. Identity can be attached to each transaction, ostensibly to provide security for your account, so that even if it is hacked, the damage can be traced and reversed.

The whole world is virtually internet connected either by wire, cell tower, or satellite. Every transaction can be immediately authorized or declined, especially with a redundancy of connections. A combination of block-chain and central  bank ledger can be disseminated to local bank branches and even individuals’ cell phones to prevent an interruption in commerce should communication with the central bank be compromised. Then the block chain and ledger can be matched and resolved with the central bank when the connection is resumed.

I very very strongly suspect this will be the mark of the beast system of buying and selling. It is still uncertain what the “mark” will be. It could be a microchip or a microchip accompanied by a tattoo showing where to scan for the microchip. Whatever it is, it will have to be something that can be rolled out quickly on a massive scale. How close are we. Watch for clues in any development of technology or infrastructure that can enable a rapid massive scale deployment of the new system. It will have to be ready to go in a matter of days to prevent a complete societal breakdown when the current banking system collapses. The new system may already be complete and ready for roll-out. There is no way to be sure, but watch for any clues.

Submitted by “Counter Analysis”




BYMufti Zar Wali Khaan (Shaykhut-Tafseer Wal-Hadeeth of Jaami’ah Ahsanul-Uloom Pakistan)

(Translated from Urdu)


(The ‘error’ is egregiously deliberate. The intentional ‘error’ is the effect of the avarice and greed for the tens of thousands of dollars which the international riba banks pay to these miscreant molvis and sheikhs for  issuing fatwas of jawaaz – permissibility – for their haraam riba products – The Majlis)

Some people began to announce that interest is haraam and it is obligatory to abstain from it. (Every jaahil Muslim is aware of the evil of riba. However, this announcement refers to the wiles of those who plotted to capitalize on this Shar’i prohibition by operating  so-called ‘islamic’ banks where RIBA dealings are deceptively affixed with Islamically-sounding designations to dupe the ignorant, and to provide cover for the wealthy, greedy, money-hungry  Muslim capitalists – The Majlis)

The so-called ‘islamic-banks’, fraudsters, deceits and liars who plunder and pillage the Imaan of the Ummah started taking advantage of it (i.e. of Islam’s prohibition of interest to  establish so-called ‘islamic’ banks where the same western riba system  operate, camouflaged with Islamic nomenclature –The Majlis)  Oh! that Al-Meezaan marvellous! Oh! that Al-barakah!  (Al-Meezaan is Mufti Taqi’s riba bank – The Majlis)

But, in reality there is no islaamic-bank in the whole world, not even in the noble Arab lands. There was one Al-Faisal ‘Islamic’ bank regarding which 300 senior Ulama of Makkah informed the King that “we find nothing of Islam in it. On the contrary, it is an institution of sheer interestThen while Al-Faisal bank continued with its existence, the term, Islam was deleted from it’s name so that Islam is not disgraced.

This is theft and trickery because haraam is perpetrated and perpetuated in the name of Islam. Four hundred Fuqaha from Karachi and from  around Pakistan have issued a written statement that in these so-called ‘islamic’ banks there is not even a hundredth part of a percent of Islam. Just as Ghulaam Ahmad Qaadiyaani is not a Nabee, and just as there is nothing of Islam in him, so too, in the same manner the banking system (the so-called ‘islamic’ banking system) is way- extremely far away from Islam. (These banks have no resemblance to Islam and not even have they any semblance of Islam. They are gigantic frauds, heinous agents of shaitaan. They market Rnna as trade. Describing them, the Qur’aan Majeed says: “Those who devour riba do not stand except as one who has been driven to insanity by the touch of shaitaan. That is because they say: ‘Verily, trade is like riba.’, whilst Allah has made halaal trade and made riba haraam.” There in ordered lust for the dollars has maddened them, deranged their brains and constrained them to barter away their Imaan for the boodle. – The Majlis)

Then there are those interest-based banks which people understand to be wrong as there is interest involved in it. There is lesser evil in these interest-based banks in comparison to the so-called ‘islamic’-banks, because when people deal with these interest-based banks they do so with a guilty conscience. They understand that they are embroiling themselves, Thus they acquire the taufeeq to repent. The supplicate: “Yaa ALLAAH! Do forgive us and provide us with such halaal means which are free from even a cent of contamination.” It is stated in the Hadeeth:

“To take even a dirham of interest is like fornicating seventy times with one’s own mother within the Baitullaah.” (This is the satanism which the bank molvis and the bank ‘shariah’ boards halaalize. – The Majlis)

People dealing with these interest-based banks acknowledge their sin and consider themselves to be sinful. But these so-called ‘islamic’-banks are looters in the name of Islam. There is absolutely nothing of Islam in them. Neither in Mezaan bank (of Mufti Taqi) nor in Al-barakah bank nor in any of other myths which are dubbed ‘islamic’-banks.

Ulama are unanimous that those Ulama (Ulama-e-soo’ – The Majlis) who are leading (and misleading – The Majlis) these so-called ‘islaamic banks are in a manifest error. The most senior amongst the Ulama, Maulana Saeemullaah Khaan (Rahmatullah alayh) had held a gathering of Ulama of Pakistan against these banks. The country’s most esteemed Madrasah Jaami’ah Islaamiyah published a book in refutation of these banks. Four hundred Fuqaha and Muftiyaan collectively prepared a written statement in which they categorically declared the nullity of these ‘islamic’ banks. They are null and void even in the remotest sense of Islam.

These banks are blatantly interest institutions. They are sheer interest or even worse than interest. When the heads of these banks were questioned they informed, they conceded their interest dealings. They said: “We give the interest amount to the other donors, we give them the profits too.” (This is the convolution stupidly and irrationally disgorged by those whose brains have been deranged by the spell of Shaitaan. – The Majlis) Then the hoodwink people, deceiving them to accept that this (satanism) is ‘islamic’.

If someone describes a beautiful donkey or a mule to be a mountain bull to some ignorant person, the donkey/mule is not transformed into a mountain bull, and such deception does not become halaal. The donkey and mule will remain a donkey and a mule. Or, if someone places a container of sewerage-gutter water in his fridge and affixes to it a label on which is printed with Maa-uz-Zamzam or Maa-ul-Hayaat or Maa-ush-Shifaa, there then just as this is deceit, so too is the deceit of those claiming that these banks  are  ‘islamic’. They are guilty of the most heinous lies.

Al-Hamdulillaah, Lahore is one of the leading cities of our country in which the Fuqaha and Ulama have assembled at this time. The Ulama from around the country gathered under the leadership of our Buzrugh Mufti Habeebullaah Jaan, and they once again warned the banks that they should not label any of their departments as ‘islamic’ and that they should not resort to lies. They emphasised that there is not a single place in the whole world where the banks are on the way Islamic.

When banks started putting up the banners ‘islam’, calling themselves ‘islamic’ banks, I asked one banker how is this possible? He replied: “it is not so. Our work progresses as people search for something”.

Khasirad-dunyaa wal-aakhirah.

(Destruction for him in the dunyaa and the Aakhirah.)

Thaalika huwal-khusraanum-mubeen.

(That is indeed a manifest destruction.)


Al-Hamdulillaah, our Jaami’ah ‘Arabiyah Ahsanul-‘Uloom has also published a special edition on this subject. Its name is, “So-called islamic-bank – Clarification, Research, Fataawaa.

In the light of the research of the Fuqaha and Ulama, a veritable encyclopaedia has been prepared. Even prior to this, I have discussed the issue and have informed people, and safeguard their Imaan from the fraud of those who are perpetuating the haraam myth and deceiving in the name of Deen. Laa Ilaaha Illallaah!

The need for this clarification) arose as some people were saying that haraam is being perpetuated on a massive level, and even some molvis too are involved in it. So Maulana Saleemullaah Khaan (Rahmatullah alayh) who is their Ustaadh (He is the Ustaadh of Mufti Taqi – The Majlis) said in the same gathering: “They are not speaking the truth in this matter.” This statement of his has been recorded. That program is preserved and is on record. The write-up of that program was also published by Ahsanul-‘Uloom. These forty Fuqaha present at that time in the gathering have endorse it, stating that there is no ‘islamic banking anywhere, and that those so-called ‘islamic’ banks) are in conflict with Islam, and that it is necessary to abstain from them.

Laa Ilaaha Illallaah! What kind of age has dawned? There is dissension amongst Ahle-Haqq also. Those who are consider the flag-bearers of Deen and Ilm have fallen in manifest deviation. (They may have been associated at one time with the Ahl-e-Haqq. But now they have brazenly aligned themselves with Ahl-e-Baatil – The Majlis)

May Allaah Ta’ala safeguard the Imaan and the Khatamah (Maut – the end of life) with Khair and Aafiyah (Aameen)……

“Laa yakhaafoona fillaahi law mata laaim”

(They don’t fear the criticism of the critics (in matters of the Deen) – Qur’aan

Those to whom Allaah Ta’ala bestows such a lofty rank, they fearlessly proclaim such masaa-il (Haqque) so that the Muslims may safeguard their Imaan.


The notion that bitcoin or any other form of crypto ‘currency’ is real currency is baseless. This idea is based on lack of understanding of the issue. Only if the government declares bitcoin to be legal currency, will it assume the status of currency in terms of the Shariah.

Presently it is ignorance to understand that bitcoin is currency. Only if an ordinary illiterate is able to buy a loaf of bread with bitcoin will it be understood that this plot of the Yahood and other sinister forces has attained the status of currency despite the massive fraud and satanism underlying it.

As the position stands currently, bitcoin is a huge gambling and riba conspiracy. It is not trade. It does not involve exchange of material commodity. It is pure gambling.

The contention of ‘secrecy’ ascribed to it is also a massive deception. There is no secrecy and no confidentiality in this system. The sinister forces who are responsible for this new artefact of satanism have lured people into this scam to commit deals and acts which are proscribed in terms of western law and policies. Thus, persons who have made ‘secret’ transfers of funds via this shaitaani, Yahoodi system have been arrested. Whatever is done via this system is recorded by the sinister forces. Be in no doubt and do not labour in darkness and stupidity in this regard.

One Pakistani Sister who had effected transfer of funds via the bitcoin system is currently in jail in New York awaiting trial. If she is found guilty in terms of the unjust kuffaar law, she will spend the rest of her life in the torturous jails of the U.S.A. May Allah Ta’ala have mercy on her.




[Mujlisul Ulama]

The following letter from a Brother, adds more light to the bitcoin/crypto currency which in reality is a ghost ‘currency’. It is a massive, satanic gambling operation:

Personally I got involved in the crypto currency market for a week now. I used majority of my funds in my bank account to purchase a certain currency at a low price which my friends assured me the value will double in 48 hours due to the ceo announcing huge partnerships with nasdaq 500 companies. 24 hours after purchasing the currency online my profits were at 50%.

Out of greed I did not sell rather I held the coin hoping for it to increase by another 50%. After 48 hours the announcement postponed for 2 days later and the price dropped 20% than what I originally paid. In this period I researched the company and what it invests the money in and found out that it plans on launching online betting and gambling platforms that are Decentralized (untraceable by government) out of fear of Allah I sold my coins at a loss although I knew I could double my money in 50 hours. During the 1 week period that I started trading I slept for 3 hours per day and was in a constant fikr and worry about the markets and what I could be missing out on. After some muraqaba i have concluded this form of ‘trading’ is no different to gambling. It’s like entering a casino or betting on a game and hoping you’ll win. There is no guarantee that you will gain a profit. Another Muslim friend invested in another currency that was used to control the wine trade, Alhumdulillah he got out of it. This whole crypto game is a huge gamble and our Muslims need to be taught about its dangers.

(End of letter)


The crypto currency scam is a huge Yahudi conspiracy. It is outright gambling. It is a ghost ‘currency’ which has no reality. It is devoid of reality. It operates just like gambling. It creates gambling lust in the blood of those who gamble with this ghost currency. With your real money, you buy ghost currency. Investors in this satanic stupidity will learn the hard way when the soap bubble bursts and when they find themselves having to suffer huge losses.

There is no maal (tangible commodity) involved. It is not a viable form of trade in terms of the Shariah. It is a massive gambling conspiracy which consists of Haraam compounded with Haraam.

Be contented with the Rizq Allah Ta’ala has pre-ordained for you. Rizq is fixed. It will neither increase nor decrease. Do not allow shaitaaniyat and nafsaaniyat to cultivate loss for you – loss in this dunya and loss in the Aakhirat. Greed is a disastrous evil. Rasulullah (Sallallahu alayhi wasallam) said:

“Rizq is sealed (pre-ordained and fixed), and the avaricious one (the greedy one) is deprived.”


About Bitcoins – Advice to the ‘Ulama

[By Mujlisul Ulama]


It should be well understood that at this stage bitcoin is NOT currency. We are not saying that it cannot or will not become currency in the future. The Yahudi conspirators who control the economy of the world have their own wonderful and artful ways of fostering and establishing their plots. But at this moment understand well that bitcoin is NOT currency, hence the properties and effects of currency do not apply to bitcoin.

Our advice to muftis who rush to clamber aboard the Yahudi bitcoin bandwagon is to ascertain what the western kuffaar experts have to say about bitcoin. At all times there will be concerned and independent kuffaar experts in all fields of mundane life. After all, these expert economists who understand the intricacies of satanic banking and all paraphernalia related to the Satanist currency conspiracy, are better poised to understand bitcoin.  It is essential to heed their warnings and to tread cautiously with the process of churning out ‘fatwas’ on the basis of lack of information and misinformation. Read the following bitcoin report and advice by one of the world’s leading western bankers.

Swiss banking boss calls for regulators to act on bitcoin – AFP

THE chairman of Swiss banking giant UBS does not consider the soaring cryptocurrency bitcoin as money and has called for regulators to intervene.

Bitcoin prices have surged this year from less than $1 000 (about R13 100) in January to $17 000 (R222 700) last week, after trading in the digital currency began on the Chicago Board Options Exchange – the first time it has appeared on a traditional platform.

But in an interview with the NZZ am Sonntag weekly, published yesterday, UBS boss Axel Weber warned investors against jumping on the bandwagon, saying the bubble would inevitably burst.

“In my opinion, bitcoins are not money,” he said, adding that the virtual currency had significant design flaws.

Money was meant to fulfil three main functions and bitcoins failed at all of them, he said.

The currency was not an effective means of payment since it was not universally accepted, it was not a good measure of value since prices were not written in bitcoins, and it was not an effective way to store value, since it was inherently unstable, he said.

Weber said the main problem was that with no central bank and no issuer controlling the supply, the value was determined solely by demand, which led to huge price fluctuations in both directions.

UBS had decided to advise clients against investing in the virtual currency, he said, because the bank did not consider it valuable and it was not sustainable.

To protect investors who do not take the bank’s advice, regulators were needed, he said. (The Herald 18 Dec 2017)

(End of report)

The rational conclusion is:

– Bitcoin is not money

– Bitcoin is unsafe

– Do not invest in bitcoin

– The properties which the Shariah invests in currency are not applicable to bitcoin at this stage.

– Be alert to Yahudi plots.


The Philosophy Of Money in Islam

By Mufti Faraz Adam

The last decade has witnessed many events and developments in the financial world such as the global financial crisis, the economic reforms in China, the slump in oil prices and the global drift towards a cashless economy. The digitisation of the economy has innovated payment methods  and revolutionised the concept of money. Nations would barter goods they had in surplus for goods they needed as early as 9000 BC. Grains and cattle were popular goods of barter. In 1200 BC, cowries – the shells of a mollusc – were used in China as money (Wray, 2012). Thereafter, bronze and copper cowrie imitations were manufactured in China at the end of the Stone Age in 1000 BC (Davies, 2002). This is considered to be the earliest form of metal coins. Metal tool money such as knives and spade were also used in China. The first official currency was minted by King Alyattes of Lydia in modern day Turkey in 600 BC (Luo, 1999). The coins were developed out of lumps of silver and took the familiar circular form. This technique was duplicated and refined by the Greeks, Persian, Macedonian, and later the Roman empires. These empires used precious metals such as gold, silver and bronze whilst China  used based metals (Luo, 1999). In 118 BC, the first documented type of banknotes came into existence in China, where leather money was being circulated in the form of one-foot-square pieces of white deerskin with colourful borders. From the ninth to the fifteenth century, China experienced the rapid growth of paper banknotes in circulation to the point that their value rapidly depreciated and inflation soared. In 1816, gold was officially made the standard of value in England. Although banknotes were in use prior to this, this was the first time that their worth had been tied to directly to gold. In 1860, Western Union developed e-money with electronic fund transfer via telegram. In 1946, John Biggins invented Char-It Card, the first credit card. European banks began offering mobile banking with primitive smart phones in 1999. Electronic money was further developed when contactless payment cards were issued in 2008 in UK for the first time. 2008 also witnessed the birth of Bitcoin: a cryptic peer to peer electronic cash system (Bank of England, 2014). This evolution highlights the global shift towards a cashless economy.

The Philosophy of Money in Islam Islam does not recognise money as a subject matter of trade, except in some special cases. Money has no intrinsic utility; it  is only a medium of exchange; Each unit of money is exactly equal to another unit of the  same denomination, therefore, there is no room for making profit through the exchange of these units inter se. Profit is generated when something that has intrinsic utility is sold for money or when different currencies are exchanged, one for another. The profit earned through dealing in money (of the same currency) or the papers representing them is interest, hence prohibited.

Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 H) states that the physical body of money is never the objective of acquiring money, rather, it is the counter-exchange which is the objective and benefit of money. [Majmu’ al-Fatawa] 

The owner of the money must spend or put labour to derive benefit from money. If the money is lent in the form of a loan, interest cannot be charged on it. Money is simply a unit of measurement. Thus, money is not a commodity in Islam. Its reward is not guaranteed, instead, it is contingent on the result of production from productive activity which generates surplus value. [Viability of The Islamic Dinar, 73-90].

Ibn Taymiyyah states in another place: “When currencies and money are inter-traded with the intention of investment and profit, it opposes the very purpose of money and Thamaniyyah.” [Majmu al-Fatawa] 

Ibn al-Qayyim (d.751 H) states: “Money is never sought for itself; rather, it is used as a means to gain commodities. When money begins to be treated as a commodity and becomes the objective of transactions, the entire (economic) system will become corrupted and in crisis.” [I’laam al-Muq’een]
Imam al-Ghazali (d.505 H) states:  “Allah Ta’ālā created dinar and dirham for circulation and to be an equitable and just standard between different assets. They are the means to all other assets; they are precious in themselves but not desired for themselves.” [Ihya’ Ulum al-Deen]

Money in the Quran and Prophetic traditions
The Quran describes the role of money in the following manner: “Do not entrust your wealth to the feeble-minded, which Allah has made to maintain you”   [Quran 4:5]  

The word used to describe wealth in this verse is Qiwam. This refers to something made to maintain, support and sustain others. This word reflects the true essence of money; money is a powerful means which Allah has created to upkeep and maintain the entire worldly system. It is the means to an end; not an end in and of itself. The end goal of money is to sustain one’s worldly affairs to facilitate focus on the Hereafter. 

The primary sources of Islam have not defined any characteristic nor condition for money.[Majmu’ al-Fatawa]. The Qur’an and Sunnah only refer to the prevalent money in circulation at the time: Dinar and Dirham. At the time of revelation, the bimetallic currency was in use. In fact, the two verses of the Quran (3:75) and (12:20) shows that the previous nations also used Dirhams or silver coins. Imam Abd al-Barr states that Muslims of the prophetic era used the Roman Dinars and Persian Dirhams (Shukri, 2007).  

Money in Islamic history 
Caliph Abdul Malik ibn Marwan introduced the first Islamic dinar and dirham in the year 76 Hijrah (Shukri, 2007). During the Mamluk dynasty (872-922 A.H/1468-1517 CE), Fulūs (copper coins) came into existence to use in small commercial transactions. Its purchasing power was very limited and was for common daily needs of life (Wan Kamal, 2006). In the Ottoman empire, money was further developed. The Ottomans produced the currency named Qaimah in the form of paper money. In 1914, the Ottomans officially declared that paper money was the only legal tender for the medium of exchange (Yaacob, 2013). 

The above developments across the Islamic empires support the view that Islam has not defined currency, instead, it has left it to people to decide their currency. Ibn Taymiyyah states that the Shariah has not defined any specific condition nor definition for currency and money, and has instead left it to the ‘Urf and understanding of the people. [Majmu’ al-Fatawa]

Hence, the Hanafī jurists state that assets or commodities become money and currency by Ta’āmul (common usage) and Iṣṭilāḥ (common agreement) (al-Kasani). Imam Ahmad also opined that currency and money can be identified by the agreement of the people (Ibn Qudamah).  

Money according to contemporary Muslim thinkers  The introduction of fiat currency witnessed a boom in writings and researches on money. Dr Asmatullah (2013) highlights the opinions of Islamic scholars on what is money. He presents three opinions on what Islamic scholars consider as money: one group of scholars consider gold and silver as real money. A second group of scholars only class minted coins as money regardless of the metal its composed of. A third group of scholars suggest that gold and silver are the real, accepted other forms of money, other items can also be considered as money upon fulfilling certain requirements. Although this paper does not consider nor discuss virtual currencies, an argument is presented on the prerequisites in Islam to consider something as money. Yaacob (2014) addressed another aspect to currency which Dr Asamatullah’s paper failed to address: the evolution of money.  Yaacob (2014) discusses how the understanding of what is money has developed. In this paper, he highlights how paper money evolved from being a debt instrument to being an independent form of money.  However, the most this paper considers in terms of evolution of money is fiat currencies.  Similarly, Mani (1984) discusses the reality of paper money in his paper. The main contribution of this paper is the consideration of whether money has to be government backed to be considered as money. The paper proposes three views: the mineral view, the governmental view and the psychological view.

Types of Money Discussed in Fiqh texts
Islamic jurists state that money is of two types: 

Natural Money (al-thaman al-khilqī) – money created to serve as a medium of exchange and naturally possesses monetary value. Gold and silver are natural money. Imam al-Ghazāli (d.505 H) refers to gold and silver as natural money which Allah The Almighty created for mankind to use as a standard and measure to price and valuate (al-Ghazali, 2011).     

Artificial and customary money (al-thaman al-‘urfī) – money adopted as a medium of exchange whereby the monetary value is extrinsic to the money.  Commodity money and fiat currencies are common artificial and customary forms of money. 

Commodity money refers to those assets which intrinsically has value and serve another function but become an acceptable and popular medium of exchange.  This was an accepted form of money in Shariah.   

Commodity money are assets used as money that also have intrinsic value in some other use.  In other words, it can serve as money as well as commodity due its intrinsic value. Salt, animals, shells, grains etc. are forms of commodity money. Commodity money is an acceptable form of money in Shariah when people attribute Thamaniyyah to a commodity. 

Fiat money gets its value from a government (enforced) order (i.e. fiat). That means, the government declares fiat money to be legal tender, which requires all people and firms within the country (are forced) to accept it as a means of payment. Unlike commodity money, fiat money is not backed by any physical commodity. By definition, it does not have intrinsic value. Hence, the value of fiat money is derived from the relationship between supply and demand. Most of the world’s paper money is fiat money. Fiat money is also an acceptable form of money in Shariah after the government assign a note, coin or electronic money value and Thamaniyyah.    

One of the key differences between the two is the source of monetary value (Thamaniyyah) i.e. who and what primarily assigned it as money. Natural money has intrinsic Thamaniyyah and customary money has extrinsic Thamaniyyah. Gold and silver innately possess Thamaniyyah by which people consider them as stores of value and are ready to exchange goods in lieu of gold and silver.  What is interesting to consider is that besides their unique properties, gold and silver have nothing unique about them to signify the attribute of Thamaniyyah. Nevertheless, across time, humans have naturally valued gold and silver which led them to use it as currency. It is as if the Thamaniyyah is placed by Allah into the hearts of humans for gold and silver and thus, Thamaniyyah has become a permanent description of gold and silver. Besides gold and silver, artificial and customary money such as commodity money and fiat money do not innately possess Thamaniyyah. Although commodity money has intrinsic value, it does not have Thamaniyyah. Humans naturally do not perceive commodities as a medium of exchange, rather, they are the subject of an exchange.  On the other hand, fiat currencies do not have intrinsic value to serve a function nor do humans naturally consider them to possess Thamaniyyah, instead, an extrinsic force adds the notion of Thamaniyyah to fiat currencies which is then perceived by the masses. Thus, money can be divided into the following: 

1) Al-Thaman al-Khilqī (gold and silver) – intrinsic Thamaniyyah and intrinsic value allowing it to be used for other purposes such as jewellery.

2) Al-Thaman al-‘Urfī (customary money)
A) Commodity money – has intrinsic value allowing it to be used for other functions but does not have intrinsic Thamaniyyah. B) Fiat money – No intrinsic value and therefore does not provide any considerable function besides being a medium of exchange. Neither does it have intrinsic Thamaniyyah

Commodity money is an asset used as money that also has intrinsic value.  In other words, it can serve as money as well as a commodity due to its intrinsic value. Salt, animals, shells, grains etc. are forms of commodity money. Commodity money is an acceptable form of money in Shariah when people attribute Thamaniyyah to a commodity.

Fiat money gets its value from a government order (i.e. fiat). That means, the government declares fiat money to be legal tender, which requires all people and firms within the country to accept it as a means of payment.  Unlike commodity money, fiat money is not backed by any physical commodity. By definition, it does not have intrinsic value. Hence, the value of fiat money is derived from the relationship between supply and demand. Most of the world’s paper money is fiat money. Fiat money is also an acceptable form of money in Shariah after the government assign value to a note, coin or electronic money and Thamaniyyah.     

Thaman, commonly translated as price, is a broad term used to describe any medium of exchange in a sale regardless of what the medium is: currency, assets or a debt.  Every sale contract requires a Thaman for validity.  However, not every Thaman is currency or money. In other words, the trait of Thamaniyyah is not in everything used when paying for goods.   

Ibn Taymiyyah (d. 728 H) states that the Sharī’ah has not defined any specific condition nor definition for currency and money, and has instead left it to the ‘Urf and understanding of the people. Hence, the Hanafī Fuqahā’ state that assets or commodities become money and currency by Ta’āmul (usage) and Iṣṭilāḥ (common agreement).  Imam Ahmad (d.241 H) also opined that currency and money can be identified by the agreement of the people [al-Mughni].  When something becomes currency or money in Shariah, the rulings of Zakat, currency exchange, Ribā and other such rulings apply to the currency.    

The legal consequences of being Thaman (price):
1) When transacting, the Thaman (price) becomes a debt upon the buyer.
2) It is not necessary to own the monetary amount and price (Thaman) at the time of transaction.
3) A transaction is not nullified with the non-delivery of the Thaman.
4) Thaman can be re-negotiated after a transaction except in a ṣarf and Salam contract. 

Characteristics of Thaman:
1) Benefit from Thaman is derived by spending. It serves no other purpose whilst in one’s ownership 2) Thaman is used as a standard for pricing
3) Thaman is used as a medium of exchange to acquire assets with intrinsic value 

The Concept of Ta’āmul and Iṣṭīlāḥ for Establishing Currency

Ta’āmul refers to common usage. Iṣṭilāh refers to mutual concurrence. The term Ta’āmul is synonymous to ‘Urf and ‘ĀdahTa’āmul is established when the usage of something becomes dominant and becomes the standard in affairs and dealings. 

Iṣṭilāḥ (mutual concurrence) is a similar concept to Ta’āmul. Imam Abū Ḥanīfah (d.150 H) and Imam Abū Yūsuf (d.182 H) were of the opinion that a commodity can be considered as money upon the agreement of only the two transacting parties. Whereas, Imam Muhammad (d.189 H) viewed that for commodities to be considered currency and money, general and widespread Iṣṭilāḥ is required for commodities to be money and currency [al-Hidayah]. 

Thus, according to Imam Muhammad (d.189 H), only when commodity has public acceptance will it be regarded as money.   Mufti Muhammad Taqi Uthmani states that the preponderant position is that of Imam Muhammad. Thus, Iṣṭīlāḥ can only be activated and deactivated by the public and not by the transacting parties alone.

Besides Dinar and Dirham, other assets which became a currency without the intervention of a state did so upon Ta’āmul and Iṣṭilāḥ. In historical times, assets and raw metals were commonly used in daily chores and affairs.  Therefore, assets and raw metals which served other purposes in daily life would not be regarded as money until Ta’āmul (usage as money) transpired. [Al-Mabsut]  Ta’āmul and Iṣṭilāḥ were the indicators of something transforming from Urūḍ (assets) to Thaman (money). Ta’āmul is a natural process which takes time to establish. A habit is formed after an industry, area or market deal with something as money over a given period of time, establishing a Ta’āmul. Some of the apparent indicators of Ta’āmul are:

• The ẓāhir and apparent understanding of such assets is that it is money.  
• People regard them as money extemporaneously. 
• The first description or definition that comes to mind of such assets is of money. 
Thamaniyyah becomes their second nature and innate trait.  
• The obvious form of payment becomes these assets.    

However, money which was coined and released by the government, was money from its inception. A natural process of Ta’āmul was not required as people regarded that asset as money upon circulation. The government establish Ta’āmul and ‘Urf by legislation. Thus, Mufti Taqi Uthmani indicates that an ‘Urf can be established with legislation. Minted coins served no other purpose but as a medium of exchange from inception due to the ‘Urf being implemented and imposed by the government. In such an instance, the natural process of Ta’āmul and forming a habit is fast tracked by legislation.   

Assets which become money and are given the quality of Thamaniyyah upon Ta’āmul can also be deactivated as money once they are withdrawn or no longer used as money. The Thamaniyyah being removed from such items reverts them back to assets and raw metals. This can be understood in commodity money which continue to serve their primary function upon being withdrawn and out of circulation.   

The Thamaniyyah (monetary element) in Dinar and Dirham can never be deactivated or removed, as that is intrinsically and innately instilled in these precious metals by Allah. [Al-Ikhtiyar]

The Fiqhi (juristic) Components for Currency 
This section analyses the components required for any item or asset to be considered a currency. 

Māl (Wealth) 
The primary component for any counter value or consideration is Māl. An accepted definition of a transaction among Muslim jurists is ‘an exchange of Māl in consideration of Māl’ (al-Marghinani). Any consideration in a commutative contract must be Māl. If the consideration is not Māl, the contract is void (bāṭil). Therefore, the first fundamental requirement for money is that it must be Māl. Scholars differ in their understanding of Māl.  

Linguistically, Māl in the Arabic language refers to anything which can be acquired and possessed; whether it is corporeal (‘ayn) or usufruct (manfa’ah); examples of this include gold, silver, animals, plants and the benefit derived from assets such as living in homes, riding vehicles etc. (Wohidul Islam, 1999). Something which cannot be possessed, cannot be considered as Māl linguistically. For example, birds in the sky, fish in the water, trees in forests are not Māl in terms of the Arabic language as they are not in any person’s possession (al-Zuhayli, 1985).

After the codification of Islamic law by various schools, the term Māl was coined to denote different technical meanings and concepts. Thus, jurists from different schools differed in their understanding of Māl. Wohidul Islam (1999) categorises the definitions of Māl into two definitions and understandings: The Hanafi understanding and the majority understanding. 

If we consider Wohidul Islam’s (1999) categorisation, it becomes clear that even among the Hanafi jurists, different definitions of Māl are found. However, when closely examining the definitions, the variance is not due to a difference in the nature of Māl, but simply due to the different ways of expression (Wohidul Islam, 1999). For example, some of the common definitions are:

1) Māl is what human instinct inclines too and which is capable of being stored for the time of necessity (Ibn Abidin, n.d.).
2) Māl is that which has been created for the goodness of human beings. Māl brings with it scarcity and stinginess (Uthmani, 2014).
3) Māl is that which is normally desired and can be stored up for the time of need” (Majallah, 2012). 

According to the Hanafi jurists, Māl is “what is normally desired and can be stored up for the time of need”.  This definition denotes that the two key criteria for defining Māl in the Hanafis’ view are “desirability” and “storability”.  The first criterion clearly links Māl to its linguistic root mayl, which means inclination or desire. Mufti Taqi Uthmani describes desirability as something which is beneficial. However, Shaykh Salah Abul Hāj states that the condition of desirability excludes undesirable articles of trade such as humans etc. 

Ibn ‘Ābidīn (d.1252 H) presents another definition of Māl as “something created for the benefit of man which people hoard and aspire”. Imam al-Lacknawi (d.1304 H) has a similar discussion on Māl.

In terms of storability, Ibn ‘Ābidīn (d.1252 H) states that this condition excludes Manfa’ah (usufruct)45 as Manfa’ah is Milk (something that comes into your ownership) not Māl.  In other words, Manfa’āh is something which comes into one’s ownership as a result of trading Māl and is the usufruct of the Māl and not Māl in itself.  Thus, in a rental contract, one gets ownership of the Manfa’ah and not the Māl (leased item) which is providing the Manfa’ah. Thus, intangibles which can be stored and retrieved are different to Manfa’ah. The former will be Māl whilst the latter is not Māl according to the Hanafi legal theory. 

Storability simply means that something can be retrieved for use later. Thus, thin air, an odour or scent, a passing thought in one’s mind are not ‘storable’. The jurists put this condition for Māl because only storable items can be retrieved and used, and the entire purpose of Māl is usage.   

Although some Hanafi jurists have stated that Māl must be a physical entity, Mufti Taqi Uthmani dispels this argument and states that the Quran and Sunnah have not explicitly defined Māl, rather, Shariah has left it to the understanding of people. Furthermore, he argues that some Furu’ (substantive laws) in the Hanafi school discuss intangibles as Māl. He thereafter quotes the Fatāwā of late Hanafi jurists which consider electricity and gas as Māl despite being intangible.  Thus, intangibles can also be Māl on condition they are desirable and retrievable.  It is not necessary for intangible Māl to remain after using, it may be an intangible which is consumed and depleted upon usage.  The condition of perpetuity is not required in physical Māl either, hence, food is Māl despite being used by consumption. 

The Shafi’i jurists have included usufruct in the definition of Māl. Al-Zarkashi states that, “Māl is what gives benefit, i.e. prepared to give benefit”, and he continues to say at mal can be material objects or usufructs (al-Zarkashi). al-Suyuti states: “The terminology Māl should not be construed except as to what has value with which it is exchangeable; and the destructor of it would be made liable to pay compensation; and what the people would not usually throw away or disown, such as money, and the likes” (Wohidul Islam, 1999).

From among the Hanbali jurists, al-Kharqi states that Māl is something in which there exists a lawful benefit (Wohidul Islam, 1999). Al-Buhuti elaborates on this definition and states that something in which there is not benefit in essence, such as insects, or where there is benefit but it is unlawful in Islam, such as wine, cannot be considered as Māl. 

Another requirement for Māl itself to be exchangeable and tradeable is that it must be Mutaqawwim (possess legal value) for transaction to be legally sound (ṣaḥīḥ). 

Mutaqawwim refers to an item or subject being lawful to use in Shariah. Therefore, Ali Haydar states that the criteria for any item to be tradeable and exchangeable are:

1) Tamawwul 

2) Taqawwum 

Tamawwul refers to anything used as Māl. Taqawwum refers to the item being lawful in Shariah as a result of being considered valuable.  

Thamaniyyah refers to money having two critical functions:

1) Independent standard of value 2) Unit of account  

The first function of Thamaniyyah is to enable money to independently price and valuate goods. The currency is not valued against something else in its market of operation. The entire objective of currency and money is to be a means to facilitate transactions with ease without having to refer to any other benchmark or index. It is a common and widespread reference of value which does not require a further benchmark to understand its operational worth in a market or industry. If money constantly required benchmarking in a local and domestic market, this would undermine the entire function of currency.  

In addition, for something to be an independent standard of value, it necessitates that it has stability and widespread acceptance. Money is an entire system and Intiẓām. The system of money has been established to bring stability in our worldly life and to be of benefit to man. It is a standard and measure for value. Hence, in ancient times, money was weighed in a scale, reflecting the very essence of money – a means to balance and bring order in the world. Thus, Allah states: 

“Do not entrust your wealth to the feeble-minded, which Allah has made to maintain you”   [Quran 4:5]    

Therefore, if money does not have stability and is plagued with gross uncertainty and severe volatility, it loses its primary role and function. Something unstable cannot bring stability to others. 

The second function of Thamaniyyah is to be a unit of account. This refers to being a primary reference point and yardstick for people to use to post prices and record debts.  It is the thing that goods and services are priced As discussed previously, the characteristic of which has Thamaniyyah will be currency. Thamaniyyah Thamaniyyah singles out  currency from all other assets.

An asset (monetary value) is the  key element in an asset which qualifies it to serve as currency  and money. It is these three  features in currency which define  money in Islamic law.  

These three features are similar to what conventional economists define as the functions of money.

Centralisation Necessary for Money in Islam?
Until the caliphate of Abdul Malik ibn Marwān, the Islamic government did not control the currency nor its coinage. The Islamic government did not have a ‘Royal Mint’, however, Sayyiduna ‘Umar ibn al-Khaṭṭāb raḍiyallahu ‘anhu did introduce some measures to stabilise the alloy, content and weight of silver coins.  In the year 74 AH, the government of Abdul Malik ibn Marwān established a monetary system and an Islamic dirham.  Furthermore, mint houses were established which took control of the coins in circulation and improved the quality and consistency of the currencies. 

In the early decades of Islam, money was thus decentralised and left to public practice.  However, one may argue that money was still centralised since the Muslims used the Dinar – a Byzantine currency – and Dirham – a Persian currency.

The Hanafi jurists state that Ta’āmul can establish currency just as coinage and minting from the government established currency. The Hanafi jurists reasoned that anything minted and centralised would give a known benchmark and point of reference, thus, creating ease in the markets and facilitating transactions. 

The Shafi’ī jurists state that it is disliked for other than the government to mint coins and currency as it was the role of the government. Furthermore, it was a secure method to combat counterfeiting, forgery and corruption.

The Hanbali jurists are explicit in stating that it is not permissible for the Sultan to ban the currency commonly used by people as it will cause financial harm to the people, unless they are recompensed proportionately in the new currency without a fee.  Considering the benefit and harm for the masses, Imam al-Ṣuyūṭī (d. 911 H) also states that it is disliked for the government to withdraw or nullify a currency commonly used among people.  Al-Buhūtī (d.1051 H) says that the reason why the government should solely take control of minting is to benefit the people and to make it easy for them in their transactions and affairs. 

From the above, it is evident that the jurists and economists in Islam favoured a centralised monetary system because of the following reasons:

1) Trust in the currency
2) Presence of a regulatory framework
3) Secure system
4) Wide acceptance
5) Ease for the people in pricing and transacting
6) A benchmark for transactions  

Thus, if these characteristics are found in a decentralised system, there is nothing to prohibit such a system in Islam. These underpinning principles are the ideals for currency and money in Islam.  The government and ruling authority would have been the most efficient and instrumental in achieving these ideals.  It is on the back of this it seems that classical scholars favoured a centralised system. However, the reality is that the Quran and Sunnah have not defined currency, instead, they have left it to the understanding of the people and custom of the people as mentioned by Imam Ibn Taymiyyah (d.728 H). This is a common feature for those aspects of law which are fluid, dynamic and adjustable.   

Considering that a centralised system is not necessary, Shaykh Abdullah al-Mani’ states: “Money is thus whatever is agreed to be such, whether by government authority or public practice.” 

Thus, money can be determined by centralisation and decentralisation. If a decentralised system can provide benefits similar to that of a centralised system, a medium of exchange can become money through public practice and widespread acceptance. 

This research used an inductive process by interpreting classical legal texts to identify the principles of defining money in Islamic law. Three elements were identified for anything to be considered as money: Māl (wealth), Taqawwum (legal value) and Thamaniyyah (monetary usage). The concept of Māl was analysed; different definitions and understandings were presented. A famous definition was “what is normally desired and can be stored up for the time of need”. Two key criteria for Māl were highlighted from this definition: “desirability” and “storability”. Storability simply referred to something retrievable for use at a future date. On the other hand, desirability referred to something beneficial and lawful for use which people had an inclination to. The second condition was Taqawwum, which meant that the asset must be lawful. The final condition was Thamaniyyah. Thamaniyyah referred to the potential of something to be a measure of value and be commonly used as a medium of exchange.

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The Prohibition of Riba (Usury/Interest)

[Mufti Muhammad Shafi’ ‘Uthmani (rahimahullah)]

Those  who  take  riba  (usury  or  interest)  will  not  stand  but  as  stands  the  one  whom  the  demon  has  driven  crazy  by  his  touch.  That  is  because  they  have  said:  “Trading  is  but  like  riba.”  And  Allah  has  permitted trading,  and  prohibited  riba.  So,  whoever  receives  an advice  from  his  Lord  and  stops, he  is  allowed  what  has  passed,  and  his  matter  is  upto  Allah.  And  the  ones  who  revert  back,  those  are  the  people  of  Fire.  There  they  remain  for  ever.

Allah  destroys  riba  and  nourishes  charities.  And  Allah does  not  like  any  sinful  disbeliever.  Surely  those  who believe  and  do  good  deeds,  establish  Salah  and  Zakah  have  their  reward  with  their  Lord,  and  there  is  no  fear for  them,  nor  shall  they  grieve.

O  those  who  believe,  fear  Allah  and  give  up  what  still  remains  of  the  ‘riba’  if  you  are  believers.  But  if  you  do  not,  then  listen  to  the  declaration  of  war  from  Allah  and  His  Messenger.  And  if  you  repent,  yours  is  your principal.  Neither  you  wrong,  nor  be  wronged. 

And  if  there  be  one  in  misery,  then  deferment  till  ease.  And  that  you  leave  it  as  alms  is  far  better  for  you,  if  you  really  know.  And  be  fearful  of  a  day  when  you  shall  be  returned  to  Allah,  then  everybody  shall  be  paid,  in  full,  what  he  has  earned.  And  they  shall  not  be  wronged.   [Surah Baqarah: Verses 275 – 281]

The  Prohibition  of  Riba

From  these  verses  begins  the  description  of  the  forbiddance  of  riba  and  the  injunctions  relating  to  its  unlawfulness.  This  issue  is  very important  from  different  angles.  On  the  one  hand,  there  are  the  severe warnings  of  the  Qur’an  and  Sunnah  and  on  the  other,  it  has  been  taken  today  as  an  integral  part  of  the  world  economy.  The  desired  liberation  from  it  seems  to  be  infested  with  difficulties.  The  problem  is very  detail-oriented  and  has  to  be  taken  up  in  all  possible  aspects. 

First  of  all  we  have  to  deliberate  into  the  correct  interpretation  of  these  verses  of  the  Qur’an  and  into  what  has  been  said  in  authentic ahadith  and  then  determine  what  riba  is  in  the  terminology  of  the  Qur’an  and  Sunnah,  what  transactions  it  covers,  what  is  the  underlying  wisdom  behind  its  prohibition  and  what  sort  of  harm  it brings  to  society. 

The  second  aspect  of  riba  is  intellectual  and  economic.  Is  it  true  that  riba  guarantees  the  economic  development  of  the  world,  so  much  so,  that  its  suspension  will  categorically  result  in  the  destruction  of  trade  and  general  economic  activity?  Or,  this  whole  evil  cycle  is  nothing  but  the  brain-child  of  those  heedless  of  Allah  Almighty  and  the  Hereafter.  Otherwise,  all  economic  problems  can  be  solved  without  it  as  well.  Going  a  step  further,  we  can  even  say  that  the  economic peace  in  the  world  depends  on  the  elimination  of  riba,  let  alone  the  resolution  of  its  problems.  Riba  is  the  greatest  cause  of  the  economic  maladies  of  the  world. 

This  second  aspect  involves  the  discussion  of  an  economic  problem  under  which  come  long  debates  which  are  not  related  to  the  interpretation  of  the  Qur’an,  therefore,  we  shall  restrict  ourselves  to  dealing  with  the  first  aspect  only,  which  requires  no  less  details either. 

Here  we  have  a  total  of  six  verses  which  state  the  prohibition  of  riba  and  set  forth  related  injunctions.  Out  of  these,  the  first  sentence of  the  first  verse  points  out  to  the  sad  end  of  those  involved  in  riba  transactions  and  to  the  disgraceful  and  dishevelled  nature  of  their  rising  on  the  day  of  resurrection.  It  is  said  that  those  who  consume  riba  do  not  stand  except  like  a  man  who  has  been  driven  crazy  by  the  embrace  of  some  satan  or  jinn.  It  appears  in  hadith  that  the  word,  la yaqumuna  or  ‘do  not  stand’  means  the  rising  of  the  dead  from  their  graves  on  the  day  of  resurrection  in  the  sense  that  the  dealer  in  riba,  when  he  rises  from  his  grave,  will  rise  like  the  mad  man  who  has  been  driven  crazy  by  some  satan  or  jinn. 

The  first  thing  we  find  out  from  this  sentence  is  that  a  human  being  can  faint  or  go  mad  under  the  influence  of  jinns  and  satans  and  the  observations  of  those  who  have  had  such  experience  prove  it.  Hafiz  Ibn  Qayyim  al-Jawziyyah,  has  confirmed  that  physicians  and  philosophers  have  conceded  that  epilepsy,  fainting  or  madness  are  caused  by  several  different  reasons,  one  of  which,  at  times,  could  also  be  the  input  of  jinns  and  satans.  Those  who  reject  this  have  no  other  argument  in  their  favour  except  that  obviously  it  is  too  far  out  to believe. 

The  second  point  to  be  noted  here  is  that  the  Qur’an  does  not  say  that  the  consumers  of  riba  will  rise  in  a  state  of  madness  or  insanity.  Instead,  it  refers  to  a  peculiar  condition  of  lunacy  or  fit  or  stupefaction –  as  if  someone  has  been  embraced  by  Satan  and  driven  crazy.  Perhaps,  this  carries  the  hint  that  a  person  struck  with  lunacy  or  fit  is,  at  times,  found  inactive  and  silent  while  usually  these  people  will  not  be  found  in  that  dormant  state.  Instead,  they  would  be  identified  by their  ranting,  raving  and  crazy  doings  as  a  result  of  the  satanic  touch. 

Perhaps,  there  might  be  yet  another  hint  here.  It  is  commonly  noticed  that  human  senses  come  to  a  flat  nothing  after  fainting  or  insanity  following  a  sickness;  the  very  feeling  of  pain  or  punishment  is  just  not  there.  But  these  people  will  not  be  found  in  that  inert  state.  On  the  contrary,  they  would  feel,  with  full  sensitivity,  the  pain  and  the  punishment  like  one  shadowed  by  a  demon. 

Now,  at  this  point,  we  have  to  look  for  a  certain  compatibility  in  crime  and  punishment.  When  punishment  comes  from  Allah  Almighty,  for  a  person  or  group,  against  a  certain  crime,  it  is  certainly  appropriate  to  the  crime.  Therefore,  raising  the  consumers  of  riba,  without  sense,  on  the  day  of  resurrection  is  perhaps  indicative  of  a  certain  parallelism.  Isn’t  it  that  the  consumer  of  riba  is  so  drunk  with  his  greed  for  money  that  he  is  neither  kind  to  anyone  poor,  nor  does  he blush  before  anyone  for  what  he  does?  Since  he  was  really  senseless during  his  lifetime  in  the  world,  he  was  raised  on  the  day  of  resurrection  in  that  same  condition.  Or,  may  be,  he  was  so  punished  because,  in  the  mortal  world,  he  demonstrated  his  lack  of  reason  as  reason,  that  is,  he  declared  riba  to  be  like  trade;  therefore,  he  was  made  to  rise  all  deprived  of  his  sanity. 

Also  noteworthy  here  is  the  fact  that  the  verse  uses  the  expression  ya’kuluna  or  ‘eating’  of  riba  and,  by  application,  means  the  taking  and  using  of  riba.  This  may  be  in  eating  or  clothing  or  housing  and  its furnishings.  But,  it  was  identified  with  the  act  of  ‘eating’  because  that  which  is  eaten  cannot  possibly  be  retrieved,  contrary  to  other  type  of  uses  where  things  can  be  taken  back.  Therefore,  total  possession  and  monopoly  are  expressed  through  the  word,  ‘eating’.  This  metaphor is found,  not  only  in  the  Arabic  language,  but  in  Urdu,  Persian  and  several  other  languages  (English:  ‘eat’,  or  the  stronger  word,  ‘devour’). 

After  that,  comes  the  second  sentence,  in  which,  giving  the  reason  for  this  punishment  of  the  consumers  of  riba,  it  has  been  said  that  these  people  have  committed  two  crimes.  One:  They  consumed  the prohibited  (haraam)  by  dealing  in  riba.  Two:  They  took  it  to  be  lawful (halaal)  and,  in  reply  to  those  who  declared  it  to  be  haraam,  they  said  that  buying  and  selling  is  very  much  like  riba.  Just  as  ‘profit’  is  derived  from  riba,  so  is  profit  derived  from  buying  and  selling.  If  riba  is  haraam,  trade  should  be  haraam  too,  although  it  is  not  prohibited  in  the  sight  of  anyone. Here,  given  the  dictates  of  the  situation,  they  might  have  said  that  riba  is  also  like  trade  so,  when  trade  is  halaal, riba  should  be  halaal  too.  But  they,  by  changing  the  style  of  their  statement,  took  a  sort  of  mocking  plunge  at those  who  said  that  riba  was  haraam,  thereby  telling  them  in  effect  –  ‘if  you  say  riba  is  haraam, then  you  must  say  that  trade is  also  haraam’.

In  the  third  sentence,  in  reply  to  what  these  people  said,  Allah  Almighty  negated  their  position  by  saying  that  these  people  regard  riba  as  equal  to  trade,  although  there  is  a  world  of  difference  between the  two  in  accordance  with  the  will  and  command  of  Allah  Almighty.  When  He  has  made  the  one  halaal  and  the  other,  haraam  –  how  could they  be  equal? 

Keeping  this  reply  in  mind,  we  should  note  that  the  objection  raised  by  those  people  (the  defenders  of  riba)  was  based  on  a  purely rational  argument.  They  were  simply  saying  that  since  both  activities aimed  at  earning  profit,  their  governing  injunction  should  also  be  one and  the  same.  Praise  be  to  Allah  Almighty  that  He  did  not  answer  their  rational  doubt  by  a  parallel  rational  explanation.  Rather  on  the contrary,  answering  in  His  wisdom,  He  said  that Allah  Almighty  is  the absolute,  sovereign  master  of  all  and  He  alone  knows  the  harm  and  benefit,  the  good  and  bad  of  everything,  most  comprehensively.  When He  declares  something  to  be  Halaal,  and  something  else  to  be  haraam,  you  should  immediately  realize  that  there  must  be  some  loss  or  harm  or  evil  in  that  which  has  been  declared  haraam,  even  if  one  does  or  does not  see  through  it.  This  is  because  the  actual  reality  of  this  whole  system,  and  the  benefit  and  harm  that  lies  therein,  can  only  be encompassed  by  the  same  ‘Alim (the Knower)  and  Khabir  (the Aware),  from  Whose  reach  of  knowledge  the  minutest  particle  of  the  world  cannot  escape.  The  individuals  or  groups  in  this  world  can  identify  their  expedient  gains  and  their  losses,  but  they  just  cannot  claim  to  have  encompassed  the  entire  range  of  benefits  and  harms  affecting  the  whole  wide  world.  There  are  things  that  appear  to  be  beneficial  for  a certain  person  or  group  but,  when  looked  at  in  the  perspective  of  the  whole  nation  or  country,  the  same things  prove  to  be  harmful. 

Following  that,  it  is  said  in  the  third  sentence  that  a  person,  who  had  collected  some  money  before  riba  was  declared  haraam,  and  who repented  after  riba  was  declared  haraam,  and  promised  to  himself  that  he  would  not  go  near  it  in  the  future,  he  then,  will  find  that  the  amount  so  collected  belonged  to  him  based  on  the  outward  dictate  of  the  Shari’ah.  Now  remains  the  inward  affair,  that  of  his  sincere,  heart-felt  abstinence,  or  that  of  his  possible  hypocritical  repentance,  that  will  be  retired  as  a  matter  between  him  and  His  Lord.  If  the  repentance  comes  from  the  heart,  it  will  be  beneficial  in  the  sight  of  Allah,  otherwlse  it  will  pass  into  nothingness.  Common  people  have  no  right  to  doubt  about  it.  However,  one  who  hears  good  counsel,  yet  elects  to  revert  to  the  same  erroneous  pattern  of  word  and  deed,  for  such  people  Hell  is  the  place  to  go  since  this  act  of  eating  riba  is  a  sin.  And  since  their  saying,  that  riba  is  halaal  like  trade,  is  kufr,  they  will,  for  that  reason,  live  in  Hell  forever.

In  the  second  verse  (276),  it  was  said  that  Allah  Almighty eradicates  riba  and  lets  sadaqat  (charities)  grow.  Here  sadaqat  were  introduced  with  riba  by  virtue  of  a  unique  congruity.  It  will  be  noted that  there  is  contradiction  in  the  very  nature  of  riba  and  sadaqah,  then  their  outcomes  are  also  contradictory,  and  generally,  those  who  engage  in  these  two  have  contradictory  intentions  and  objectives.

The  contradiction  in  nature  can  be  explained  by  the  fact  that  in  sadaqah  one  gives  to  others  what  belongs  to  him  without  any  reward or  return,  while  in  riba,  that  which  belongs  to  others  is  taken  without any  compensation  or  return.  The  intention  and  the  objective  of  those  who  are  engaged  in  these  two  activities  is  contradictory  because  one  who  gives  sadaqah  elects  to  lessen  or  exhaust  what  belongs  to  him  exclusively  for  seeking  the  pleasure  of  Allah  Almighty  and  for  earning  merit  in  the  Hereafter;  while  the  riba-taker  is  eager  to  collect impermissible  increase  on  the  capital  he  already  has.  That  the outcome  of  both  is  contradictory  is  made  clear  by  this  verse  which  says that  Allah  Almighty  erases  the  gains  obtained  through  riba  or  takes away  its  barakah  (blissful  abundance);  and  increases  the  wealth,  or  its  barakah  for  the  giver  of  sadaqah. The  result  is  that  the  objective  of  the greedy  in  pursuit  of  wealth  is  not  achieved,  while  one  who  spends  in  the  way  of  Allah,  and  who  was  quite  happy  with  a  little  decrease  in  his belongings,  finds  it  full  of  Divine  barakah  whereby  his  wealth  increases,  or  its  end-products  do,  and  their  benefits  accumulate.

At  this  point,  it  may  be  interesting  to  find  out  what  is  the  meaning  of  erasing  riba  and  increasing  sadaqat  in  the  verse.  Some  commentators  have  said  that  this  erasing  and  increasing  relates  to  the Hereafter  where  the  riba-consumer  will  find  his  wealth  of  no  avail;  it  might  as well  become  a  curse  for  him;  while  those  who  are  engaged  in acts  of  sadaqah  and  khayrat  will  find  that  their  wealth  has  become  a  source  of  eternal  blessings.  This  is  absolutely  obvious  in  which  there  is no  doubt.  However,  according  to  the  consensus  of  commentators,  the  position  is  that  the  erasing  of  riba  and  the  increasing  of  sadaqah  is most  certainly  related  to  the  Hereafter,  but  some  of  its  traces  are  observed  in  this  world  as  well. 

The  money  or  property  of  which  riba  becomes  a  part  is  sometimes  destroyed  taking  with  it  all  that  was  before  it.  This  is  a  common  sight  in  markets  of  riba  and  stocks  where  millionaires  and  capitalists  of  yesterday  become  insolvents  and  paupers  of  today.  No  doubt,  there  are  chances  of  profit  and  loss  in  riba-free  business  activities  and  there  are many  businessmen  who  face  losses  in  business  deals  but  a  loss  that turns  a  millionaire  into  a  beggar  is  witnessed  only  in  riba  markets  and  stock  exchanges.  There  are  so  many  statements  of  the  experienced  and  the  knowledgeable  which  say  that  the  wealth  collected  through  riba  may  increase  faster  and  higher,  but  it  generally  does  not  survive  long  enough  to  run  through  children  and  there  successors.  In  between,  comes  some  calamlty  and  effaces  everything  out.  Sayyidina  Ma’mar  said  that  they  have  heard  from  their  elders  that  forty  years  hardly  pass  on  the  riba-consumer  when  muhaq  (major  loss)  overtakes  his wealth. 

May  be,  the  wealth  or  property  does  not  go  to  ruins  outwardly,  but  this  much  is  quite  certain  that  its  benefits,  utilities,  and  blessings  will  go  away.  Since  this  is  no  secret  that  gold  and  silver  are  not  desirable  or  useful  as  such.  They  cannot  remove  hunger  or  thirst.  They  cannot  help  beat  the  heat  or  serve  as  quilt  and  wrap  in  winter.  Neither  can they  be  used  as  clothes  or  utensils.  The  only  purpose  for  which  a  wise  person  goes  through  thousands  of  exercises  to  procure  and  secure  these  can  hardly  be  anything  else  except  that  gold  and  silver  are means  to  procure  things  that  go  to  make  man’s  life  pleasant  and  that  he  may  live  a  life  of  comfort  and  self-respect.  Then  comes  man’s natural  wish  that  his  children  and  relatives  should  also  enjoy  the same  comfort  and  self-respect  as he  did.

These  are  the  sort  of  things  that  can  be  called  the  benefits  and  utilities  of  wealth  and  property.  As  a  result,  we  can  safely  say  that  one  who  procures  these  benefits  and  utilities  has  his  wealth  increased  in  a  sense,  even  though  it  may  appear  to  have  decreased,  and  one  who procures  these  benefits  and  utilities  on  a  lower  scale  has  his  wealth  decreased  in  a  sense  even  though  it  may  appear  to  have  increased. 

After  having  understood  this,  let  us  compare  the  two  activities  of riba  dealings  and  sadaqah  and  khayrat.  It  will  soon  be  noticed  that  the  wealth  of  the  riba-consumer, no  doubt,  appears  to  be  increasing, but  that  increase  is  akin  to  the  swelling  of  the  human  body.  The  increase  in  swelling  is  after  all  an  increase  of  the  body  itself.  But  no  sane  person  would  like  to  have  this  sort  of  increase  because  he  knows  that  this  increase  is  a  certain  knock  of  death.  Similarly, no  matter  how increased  is  the  wealth  of  the  riba-consumer,  he  remains,  for  ever, deprived  of  its  fruits,  that  is,  comfort  and  honour.

Perhaps,  at  this  point,  a  doubt  may  bother  someone  in  view  of  the  comfort  and  status  enjoyed  by  the  riba-consumers  of  today.  Here  they are  with  their  mansions  and  villas,  living  in  every  luxury  money  can  buy,  attended  by  servants  and  maids,  having  the  best  to  eat, drink  and  sleep  –  necessities  and  absurdities  all  rolled  in  one.  A  little  thought  here  would  lead  every  sane  person  to  differentiate  between  the  articles  of  comfort  and  comfort  itself.  There  is  a  big  difference  between  the  two. The  articles  of  comfort  are  made  in  factories  and  sold  in  markets.  These  can  be  procured  aginst  gold  and  silver,  but  that  which  is  known as  comfort,  peace  and  bliss,  is  neither  made  in  any  factory  nor  sold  in any  market.  This  is  mercy  (rahmah) which  comes  directly  from  Allah Almighty.  There  are  occasions  when  this  cannot  be  procured  no  matter bow  much  one  holds  in  his  possession.  Just  think  of  the  comfort  of  a  sound  sleep.  In  order  to  have  it,  we  can  certainly  do  our  best  –  make  a sleep-oriented  house  which  is  the  best  possible,  perfect  arrangement  of  air  and  light,  cooling,  heating,  handsome  looking  furniture,  the  bed, the  mattress,  the  pillows,  all  chosen  ideally  –  but  can  we  be  sure  that  sleep  will  come  just  because  all  this  helpful  paraphernalia  is  there?  If  you  have  never  personally  experienced  this,  there  are  thousands  who  cannot  sleep  due  to  some  disease,  and  who  would  say  no.  Reports  from  a  country,  so  wealthy  and  ‘civilized’  as  USA,  reveal  that  seventy  per cent  people  cannot  sleep  without  sleeping  pills.  There  are  times  when even  these  do  not  work.  You  can  buy  from  stores  things  to  make  you  sleep  but  you  cannot  buy  sleep  from  any  store  at  any  price.  Similar  is the  case  of  other  articles  of  comfort  and  enjoyment.  You  can  buy  these  articles  against  money  but  it  is  not  necessary  that  you  do  experience comfort  and  enjoyment. 

Again,  after  having  understood  this,  if  we  look  closely  at  what happens  to  the  consumers  of  riba,  we  shall  find  that  they  have  everything  in  the  world  except  what  we  know  as  real  peace  and comfort.  So  intoxicated  they  are  in  turning  their  ten  million  into  fifteen  and  fifteen  into  twenty  that  they  have  no  time  to  eat,  or  dress  up,  or  be  with  their  wives  and  children.  There  are  factories  to  take  care  of.  There  are  foreign  ships  to  watch.  Anxieties  after  anxieties  chase  them  day  and  night.  With  them  they  sleep  and  with  them  they  rise.  How  terrible  of  these  crazy  people  who  have  confused  comfort  with  articles  of  comfort,  and  therefore,  they  are  far  far  away  from  it.

This  is  a  view  of  their  so-called  ‘comfort’.  Now  let  us  think  of  their  ideas  of  status,  prestige  and  fair  name.  The  fact  is  that  such  people become  hard-hearted  and  merciless.  Taking  advantage  of  the  poverty  of  the  poor  and  the  low  income  of  the  low-income  people  becomes  their very  occupation.  Like  parasites,  they  suck  their  blood  to  feed  their  own  bodies.  Since  that  is  that,  it  is  just  not  possible  that  people  will  ever respect  them.  Revealing  are  the  accounts  of  the  money-lenders  of  India  and  the  Jews  of  Syria.  If  you  see  them  as  they  are,  you  will  find  that  their  coffers  are  filled  with  gold  and  silver  and  precious  stones  yet  they are  given  no  respect  in  any  group  of  human  beings  in  any  corner  of  the  world.  Moreover,  the  inevitable  outcome  of  this  cruel  practice  of  theirs  is  that  the  poor  start  grudging  and  hating  them,  so  much  so  that  in  the  world  of  today  most  wars  are  an  expression  of  this  grudge  and  hate.  It  is  the  confrontation  between  labour  and  capital  that  introduced  the  ideologies  of  socialism  and  communism  in  the  world. The  subversive  activities  of  communism  are  a  result  of  this  grudge  and  hate.  The  whole  world  has  become  a  burning  cauldron  of  killings  and confrontations  because  of  these.  This  much  accounts  for  their  personal  comfort  and  social  prestige.  Experience  bears  out  that  riba-earnings never  make  even  the  life  of  their  children  pleasant.  Either  the  earnings  go  to  waste  or,  because  of  its  curse,  they  too,  remain  disgraced  and  deprived  of  the  real  fruits  of  wealth.  People  may  perhaps  be  deceived  by  the  example  of  the  riba-consumers  of  the  West,  wondering  how  rich  they  all  are  and  how  do  their  next  and  their  next generations  flourish.  To  this,  I  have  already  answered  by  presenting  a  brief  outline  of  their  so-called  prosperity.

Here  it  can  only  be  added  that  they  really  are  like  some  man-eater  who  nurses  his  body  by  feeding  on  the  blood  of  other  human  beings,  and  then  a  group  of  some  such  people  go  to  live  in  a  community  of  their  own,  and  you  take  someone  to  that  locality  to  show  him  how healthy  and  prosperous  all  of  them  happen  to  be.  But  an  intelligent  visitor  who  is  interested  in  the  welfare  of  humanity  will  never  want  to limit  his  visit  to  this  locality  alone;  on  the  contrary,  he  would  also  want  to  see  those  localities  where  the  blood  of  people  has  been  sucked  dry  leaving  them  half  dead.  One  who  has  seen  the  totality  of  such  localities  can  never  be  happy  with  the  locality  of  fat  man-eaters.  He  can  never  say  that  this  act  of  theirs  is  the  way  of  human  progress;  on  the  contrary,  he  will  have  no  option  but  to  declare  this  as  destruction  of  all  that  is  human.

Set  against  this  is  the  case  of  those  who  give  sadaqah  and  khayrat.  You  will  never  find  them  running  after  money  so  anxiously.  They  may  have  lesser  articles  of  comfort  but  they  shall  be  found  having  more satisfaction  and  peace  of  heart,  which  is  real  comfort,  as  compared  to  those  who  have  all  those  supporting  articles.  Consequently,  they  shall  be  looked  at  with  respect  and  admiration  by  every  human  being  of  the world.

Allah  destroys  riba  and  nourishes  charities.  

In  short,  the  above  statement  of  the  verse  is  very  clear  in  relation to  the  Hereafter.  However,  if  we  wish  to  understaiid,  with  a  little  effort,  it  is  equally  open  in  respect  of  this  worldly  life.  This  is  what  is meant  by  the  hadith  in  which  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  said: 

No  matter  how  much  riba  increases,  it  will  decrease  ultimately. [Musnad Ahmad  and  Ibn  Majah]

At  the  end  of  the  verse  (276),  it  is  said  that  Allah  Almighty  does  not  like  any  disbeliever,  any  sinner.  Here  it  has  been  indicated  that  those  who  just  do  not  hold  riba  as  haraam  have  fallen  into  kufr  (disbelief); and  those  who  do  know  it  to  be  haraam,  yet  get  involved  with  it,  are  sinners,  transgressors  or  fasiq.

The  third  verse  (277)  mentions  the  great  reward  of  peace  and comfort  that  awaits  the  truly  believing  and  practising  Muslims,  who  are  steadfast  in  Salah  and  Zakah.  Since,  in  the  verse  previous  to  this,  the  punishment  of  Hell  and  the  disgrace  the  consumers  of  riba  will  be  facing  was  mentioned,  so  in  accordance – with  the  general  style  of  the noble  Qur’an,  the  merit  –  in  Akhirah  –  of  the  believing-practising Muslims,  those  steadfast  in  Salah  and  Zakah,  was  mentioned  alongside.

The  gist  of  the  fourth  verse  (278): “O  those  who  believe,  fear  Allah  and  give  up  what  still  remains  of  the  riba  if  you  are  believers” is  that,  after  the  revelation  that  prohibited  riba, the  giving  and  taking  of  the  amount  of  riba  that  remained  due  against  anyone  was  also  prohibited. 

Explaining  this,  it  can  be  said  that  riba  was  rampant  all  over Arabia  before  it  was  prohibited  by  revelation.  When  verses  earlier  than  the  present  one  brought  forth  its  prohibition,  Muslims  –  following their  Qur’an-oriented  habit  –  abandoned  all  their  riba-related  dealings.  But  some  people  had  claims  of  unpaid  riba  amounts  on  some  others.  In  that  connection,  it  so  happened  that  Banu  Thaqif  and  Banu  Makhzum,  two  Arab  tribes,  had  mutual  riba  dealings  and  people  from  Banu Thaqif  had  claims  of  unpaid  riba  amounts  against  Banu  Makhzum.  When  Banu  Makhzum  became  Muslims  they,  after  having  made  their  commitment  to  Islam,  thought  it  to  be  impermissible  to  pay  back  the amount  of  riba  due.  On  the  other  side  were  Banu  Thaqif;  their  people  started  pressing  their  claim.  Since  these  people  had  become  Muslims, but  did  have  a  mutual  peace  agreement,  the  people  of  Banu  Makhzum  told  them  that  they  had  now  entered  the  fold  of  Islam  and  had  no  intention  of  spending  their  Islamic  earnlngs in  paying  off  riba.

This  dispute  rose  in  Makkah.  That  was  a  time  after  the  conquest  of Makkah.  Sayyidina  Mu’adh  radhiyallahu anhu  (according  to  another  report, Sayyidina  ‘Attab  ibn  ‘Asid  radhiyallahu  anhu)  was  the  Amir  of  Makkah,  governor  of  the  city,  appointed  by  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam).  He  reported  this  dispute  in  writing  to  him  requesting  his  guidance.  It  was  in  this  background  that  this  verse  of  the  Qur’an  was  revealed,  the  gist  of  which  is  that  all  previous  dealings  involving  riba  should  be  terminated  after  entry  into  the  fold  of  Islam,  also  no  previous  riba  amount  should  be  realized.  The  principal  was  all  that  could  be  taken.

When  this  Islamic  law  was  enforced,  the  Muslims  were  already  bound  by  it.  The  non-Muslim  tribes  who  had  accepted  the  Islamlc  law  as  party  in  peace  treaties,  they  too,  were  bound  by  it.  But,  in  spite  of this,  when  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam) announced  this  law  in  his  famous  Address  of  the  Last  Hajj,  he  made  it  a  point  to  say  that  this  law  does  not  carry  behind  it  the  financial  interest  of  any  individual,  or nation,  or  Muslims  themselves.  This  has  been  brought  into  force  to  reconstruct,  reform  and  better  the  whole  humanity.  Therefore,  first  of  all,  we  let  go  large  amounts  of  riba  owed  by  non-Muslims  to  Muslims.  Now  they  too  should  have  no  excuse  in  leaving  off  the  amount  of  riba  they  claimed.  As  he  said  in  his  Address:

which  means  that  the  riba  content  of  all  riba  dealings  made  in  the  age of  ignorance  stood  forsaken.  Now  everyone  will  get  the  principal  and  no  one  will  get  the  extra  amount  of  riba ‘Neither  shall  you  be  able  to  do  injustice  to  anyone  by  charging  an  increased  amount,  nor  shall  anyone  be  able  to  do  injustice  to  you  by  decreasing  the  amount  of  your principal.’ And  the  first  riba  that  was  surrendered  was  the  riba  of  Sayyidina  ‘Abbas  ibn  ‘Abd  al-Muttalib  (radhiyallahu  anhu),  large  amounts  of  which  were  due  on  non-Muslims  in  the  form  of  riba

The  subject  verse  refers  to  this  happening  and  sets  out  the  injunction  to  leave  off  all  standing  riba  amounts. 

As  the  verse  opens  addressed  to  Muslims,  they  were  first  given  the  command  of  Ittaqullah  that  is,  ‘fear  Allah.’  Given  after  that  was  the injunction  covering  the  real  issue.  This  is  the  same  unique  style  of  the Qur’an  which  distinguishes  it  from  all  the  law  books  of  the  world. When  a  law,  which  is  somewhat  difficult  to  act  upon,  is  given,  it  has the  prefixes  and  suffixes  of  accountability  of  deeds  before  Allah  Almighty,  and  the  punishment  and  reward  of  the  Hereafter,  so  that  Muslim  minds  and  hearts  become  prepared  to  act  upon  it;  the injunction  is  announced  after  that.  Here  too,  the  forsaking  of  the  amount  of  matured  riba  could  weigh  heavy  on  human  disposition, I  therefore,  said  first  was  Ittaqullah (fear  Allah).  After  that,  came  the injunction,  ‘leave  off  riba  that  remains.’   Towards  the  end  of  the  verse  it  was  said,  ‘if  you  are believers.’  Here  it  was  indicated  that  ‘Iman  (faith, belief)  requires  that  Divine  injunctions  should  be  followed  faithfully.  Acting  otherwise  negates  ‘Iman.  Since  this  injunction  was  somewhat  heavy  on  temperaments, Ittaqullah (Fear  Allah)  was  added  before  it,  and (If  you  are believers)  after  it.

After  that,  in  the  fifth  verse  (279),  severe  warning  has  been  given  to  those  who  act  contrary  to  this  injunction.  They  are  told  if  they  do  not  abandon  riba,  they  must  face  a  declaration  of  war  from  Allah Almighty  and  His  Messenger.  So  severe  is  this  warning  that  any  other  warning  of  such  severity  does  not  appear  anywhere  in  the  Qur’an  in relation  to  any  other  sin,  no  matter  how  great,  except  kufr  (disbelief),  of  course.  The  verse  then  closes  with  the  words: ‘if  you  repent  and  resolve  to  leave  off  the  remaining  amount  of  riba  in  future,  you  will  get  your  principal.

Neither  will  you  be  able  to  do  injustice  to  anyone  by  extracting  more  than  your  principal,  nor  will  anyone  be  able  to  do  Injustice  to  you  by decreasing  or  delaying  the  return  of  your  principal.’  Here  the  receipt  of  the  principal  has  been  conditioned  by  saying  that  you  repent,  and  resolve  that  you  will  abandon  riba  in  future,  and  only  then,  you  shall get  your  principal.

Evidently  this  indicates  if  repentance  (Taubah) was  not  done  by  resolving  to  give  up  riba,  receiving  the  principal  will  no  more  be  in order.  Here  are  the  related  detalls.  Take  the  case  of  a  person  who  just does  not  believe  that  riba  could  be  haraam  and  therefore,  he  does  not repent  and  resolve  that  he  will  have  nothing  to  do  with  riba  anymore  – then  this  person  goes  out  of  the  fold  of  Islam  and  becomes  an  apostate (murtad). The  injunction  governing  an  apostate  is  that  his  belongings  go  out  of  his  possession.  As  a  consequence,  that  which  he has  earned  during  the  period  he  was  a  Muslim,  goes  to  his  Muslim inheritors,  and  that  which  he  earns  after  involvement  with  kufr  is deposited  in  the  Baytul-Mal  (Baytul-Mal:  the  Exchequer  of  an  Islamic State).  Therefore,  should  his  non-repentance  be  because  he  considers  riba  to  be  halaal,  he  will  not  be  entitled  to  receive  even  his  principal. And  if  he  does  not  go  to  the  limit  of  considering  riba  as  halaal  but, nevertheless,  in  actual  practice,  does  not  stop  gettlng  involved  with  it and,  on  top  of  that,  gangs  up  with  his  kind  and  stands  in  confrontation with  the  Islamic  government,  he  then  is  a  rebel.  His  belongings  too, are  confiscated  and  placed  as  trust  in  the  Baytul-Mal,  so  that  it  could  be  given  back  to  him  when  he  repents.  Perhaps,  it  is  to  point  out  to  such  details  that  it  was  said  in  the  form  of  a  condition  which  implies  that,  if  you  do  not  repent,  even  your  principal  will  be  held  back. 

After  that  there  is  the  sixth  verse  (280)  which,  in  comparison  to  the anti-human  claim  of  riba,  has  stressed  upon  pure  moral  behavior  of showing  lenience  to  the  poor  and  the  have-nots.  It  is  said  that,  if  your borrower  is  too  poor  to  pay  back  your  loan,  the  provision  of  Shari’ah  is that  he  be  given  time  until  he  has  the  means,  and  should  you  forgive  him  your  loan,  it  is  much  better  for  you.

The  general  habit  of  riba-consumers  is  that  they,  once  they  know  that  their  borrower   is  poor  and  cannot  pay  the  loan  back  at  the  appointed  time,  add  up  the  riba  amount  in  the  principal  unleashing  a vicious  series  of  riba  over  riba,  even  increasing  the  rate  of  riba  in  that  process. 

Here  Allah  Almighty,  the  wisest  of  all  law-givers,  gave  the  law  that  a  genuinely  poor  borrower  who  is  unable  to  pay  back  his  loan  should not  be  harassed.  Instead,  he  should  be  given  respite  until  such  time  that  he  becomes  capable  of  doing  so.  Along  with  it  was  given  the inducement  to  forgive  the  loan  which  is  more  beneficial  for  the  lender.

The  word,  sadaqah  has  been  used  here  by  the  Qur’an  to  mean  the  act  of  forgiving.  The  hint  given  is  that  this  forgiveness  will  become  an  act  of  charity  in  your  case  and  will  bring  forth  great  merit.  As  for  the statement  –  ‘if  you  forgive,  that  is  better  for  you’  –  it  can  be  said  that  this  action  was  obviously  a  matter  of  total  loss  for  them  because  they were  not  only  being  asked  to  surrender  riba  but  also  were  going  to  lose  their  own  principal!  Still,  the  Qur’an  called  it  ‘better’  (khayr). There are  two  reasons  for  this:

1.  This  betterment  will  be  witnessed  soon  after  the  transitory  life  of  this  world  when,  in  lieu  of  this  insignificant  earning,  one  will  get  the  eternal  blessings  of  Paradise.

2.  Perhaps  there  may  be  yet  another  hint  towards  the  possibility  that  one  will  himself  see  how  good  comes  out  of  his  deeds.  There  will be  barakah  (increase, bliss)  in  what  one  has.  The  essence  of  barakah  is  that  a  little  serves  to  take  care  of  a  lot  more  needs,  even  without  a quantitative  increase  in  what  one  has.  As  such,  it  is  commonly  witnessed  that  there  is  unlimited  barakah  in  the  wealth  of  those  who  spend  in  sadaqah  and  khayrat.  The  little  they  have  serves  to  take  care of  so  many  needs  which  will  never  be  liquidated  with  large  amounts  of  money  spent  by  those  whose  money  is  haraam  (unlawful).

Then  there  is  the  wealth  not  blessed  with  barakah.  One  never  realizes  the  purpose  for  which  it  is  spent.  Or,  it  so  happens  that  such  rich  people  have  to  spend  huge  amounts  of  money  on  undesirable  heads  such  as  medicines,  treatment  and  consultancy  fees,  which  is something  the  poor  do  not  face.  First  of  all,  Allah  Almighty  blesses  them  with  health  which  frees  them  from  spending  on  their  treatment and,  in  case  they  do  fall  ill,  ordinary  treatment  gives  them  their  health  back.  Seen  from  this  angle,  forgiving  the  poor  person  the  loan  due  to  him,  which  is  apparently  a  matter  of  loss,  becomes  under  this  Qur’anic  teachings,  a  beneficial  act.

This  teaching  of  giving  respite  to  a  poor  borrower  has  also  been  commended  in authentic  ahadith  some  of  which  are  reproduced  below.

According  to  a  hadith  in  the  Mu’jim  of  al-Tabarani,  a  person  who  wishes  to  be  under  the  shadow  of  divine  mercy  when  there  will  be  no  other  shadow  for  anyone  to  hide  under,  he  should  treat  the  poor  borrower  with  lenience  and  deferment,  or  forgive  him  the  debt,  if  it comes  to  that. 

Another  hadith  similar  to  this  appears  in  Sahih  Muslim  as  well.  It  is  said  in  a  hadith  from  the  Musnad  of  Ahmad  that  the  person  who grants  respite  to  a  penniless  borrower  will  get  a  daily  thawab  of  sadaqah  in  proportion  to  the  amount  due  against  that  borrower.  And  this  calculation  covers  the  act  of  giving  respite  well  before  the  deadline  for  repayment  arrives;  and  when  the  deadline  for  repayment  does  arrive  and  the  borrower  does  not  have  the  means  to  pay,  the  respite  given  at  that  time  will  bring  forth  for  the  giver  of  respite  a  daily  thawab  of  giving  twice  that  amount  in  sadaqah.

Another  hadith  says  that  a  person  who  wishes  that  his  prayer  be answered,  or  his  misfortune  be  removed,  he  should  give  respite  to  the  penniless  in  debt.

In  the  last  verse  (281),  there  appear  again  the  subjects  of  the  fear  of  the  Last  Day,  its  accounting,  its  rewards  and  punishment,  at  which  end   these  verses  containing  the  injunctions  of  riba.  It  was  said  in  this  last  verse: 

That  is,  fear  a  day  on  which  all  of  you  will  be  assembled  before  Allah  when  everyone  will  be  fully  and  equitably  recompensed  for  his  deeds  and  they  will  not  be  wronged.

Sayyidina  ‘Abdullah  ibn  ‘Abbas  (radhiyallahu anhu)  says  that  this  verse  is  the  last  in  the  order  of  its  revelation.  No  other  verse  was  revealed  after that.  Thirty-one  days  later,  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  left  this  mortal  world.  There  are  other  reports  which  say  that  this  happened  after  only  nine  days.  Upto  this  point,  the  explanations  have  been  restricted  to  the  verses of  Surah  al-Baqarah  which  concern  the  injunctions  of  riba.  Dealing  with  the  unlawfulness  and  prohibition  of  riba,  there  are  in  the  noble  Qur’an  seven  verses  of  Surah  al-Baqarah  cited  above,  one  verse  in Surah  Al-‘Imran  and  two  verses  in  Surah  an-Nisa’.  There  is  yet another  verse  in  Surah  al-Rum  the  explanations  of  which  differ.  Some  have  taken  it  too  in  the  sense  of  usury  or  interest,  while  others  hold  that  it  has  some  other  connotation.  Thus  there  are  ten  verses  of  the  Holy  Qur’an  which  carry  the  injunctions  of  riba  or  interest.

Before  we  get  to  know  the  whole  truth  about  riba,  it  seems appropriate  that  the  translation  and  explanation  of  the  rest  of  the  verses  which  appear  in  the  Surahs  Al-‘Imran,  al-Nisa’  and  al-Rum,  should  be  given  here  so  that  it  becomes  easy  for  us  to  understand  the true  nature  of  riba  in  the  combined  perspective  of  all  these  verses. Verse  130, of  Surah aal-‘Imran  reads  as  follows:

O  those  who  believe,  do  not  eat  Riba  (usury or  interest)  multiplied  many  times.  And  fear  Allah,  so  that  you  may  be  successful.   

There  is  a  special  event  behind  the  revelation  of  this  verse.  In pre-Islam  Arabia,  the  general  pattern  of  riba  transactions  was  that  loans  were  given  on  riba  for  a  set  period  of  time;  when  that  period  expired  and  the  borrower  was  unable  to  pay  it  back,  he  was  given  an extension  of  time  on  the  condition  that  the  amount  of  riba  was  to  be increased.  Similarly,  if  payment  was  not  made  even  on  the  expiry  of the  second  deadline,  the  amount  of  riba  was  further  increased.  This fact  is  mentioned  in  general  books  of  tafsir, specially  in  Lubab al-Nuqul, on  the  authority  of  Mujahid.

The  verse  was  revealed  to  eradicate  this  inhuman  custom  of  pre-Islam  Arabia.  Therefore,  by  saying  ‘multiplied  many  times’  in  the  verse,  their  prevailing  practice  was  condemned  and  they  were  warned  on  their  selfishness  and  anti-community  conduct,  and  naturally  so,  it  was  declared  prohibited.  This  does  not  mean  that  riba  will  not  be  prohibited  if  it  happens  not  to  be  multiplied  many  times,  because  the  absolute  prohibition  of  riba  has  been  very  clearly  stated  in  Surah  al-Baqarah  and  Surah  al-Nisa’,  Irrespective  of  its  being  doubled  or  multiplied  many  times.  This  is  like  it  has  been  said  at several  places  in  the  Holy  Qur’an: Do not  take  a  paltry  price  in  exchange  of  My  verses. The  expression  ‘paltry  price’  was  used  here  to  indicate  that  even  if  the  kingdom  of  the  whole  world  was  taken  in  exchange  for  the  Divinely  revealed  verses,  the  price  will  still  be  ‘paltry.’  It  does  not  mean  that  taking  a  paltry  price  against  the  verses  of  the  Qur’an  is  haraam,  but  taking  a  higher  price  would  be  permissible.  Similarly,  the  expression  ‘multiplied  many  times’,  has  been  introduced  only  to  focus  attention  on  their  shameful  method  and  it  is  not  a  necessary  condition  for  the  prohibition.

Moreover,  if  we  think  about  the  prevalent  methods  of  riba, we  will  reach  the  conclusion  that  once  the  habit  of  taking  riba  is  settled,  the  riba  does  not  remain  simple  riba  anymore;  it  necessarily  becomes doubled  and  multiplied  because  the  amount  accrued  from  riba  becomes  a  part  of  the  total  amount  owned  by  the  creditor  and,  when  he  further  circulates  this  additional  amount  of  riba  on  interest  or  usury,  the  riba becomes  multiplied.  Should  this  chain  action  go  on  building  up, nothing  can  stop  it  from  becoming  multiplied  many  times. This  way  every  riba  will  end  up  increasing  several  times. 

Having  dealt  with  verse  130 of  Surah Aal-Imran,  let  us  now  look  at  the  two  verses, 160  and  161  of  Surah  al-Nisa’  which  concern  riba. These  are  as follows:

So,  for  the  transgression  of  those  who  became  Jews,  We  prohibited  for  them  the  good  things  earlier  made  lawful  for  them  and  for  their  preventing  (people)  frequently  from  the  way  of  Allah,  and  for  their  taking  riba  (usury  or  interest) while  they  were  forbidden  from  it,  and  for  their  eating  up  the  properties  of  the  people  by  false  means.  And  We  have  prepared,  for  the  disbelievers  among  them,  a  painful  punishment.   

These  two  verses  tell  us  that  riba  was  equally  prohibited  under  the law  of  Sayyidina  Musa  (alayhissalaam).  When  the  Jews  opposed  it,  they  were  appropriately  punished  in  their  worldly  life  when  they  started  devouring  the  unlawful  just  out  of  greed  for  the  mortal  gains  of  the world,  consequently  then,  Allah  Almighty  declared  some  lawful  things  prohibited  for  them.

Verse  39  of  Surah  al-Rum  is  as follows:

And  what  you  give  in  usury,  that  it  may  increase  upon  the people’s  wealth,  increases  not  with  God;  but  what  you  give  in alms,  desiring  God’s  Face,  –  they  shall  receive  recompense manifold. [30:39]

Some  commentators  have  taken  this  verse,  like  others  mentioned earlier,  to  be  dealing  with  interest  or  usury  in  view  of  the  use  of  the word  riba  meaning  ‘increase’  in  the  text.  According  to  them,  the  verse means  that  money  does  seem  to  increase  apparently  by  taking  interest,  but  in  fact,  it  does  not.  It  is  like  the  case  of  a  person  whose  body  gets  swollen.  Obviously  this  ‘increases’  his  body  but  no  sane  person  would  be  happy  with  this  sort  of  ‘increase’.  On  the  contrary,  he  would  regard  it  as  death  in  the  offing.  As  compared  to  this,  the  giving  of  zakah  and  sadaqah  does  seem  to  decrease  the  wealth  apparently,  but  that  is  no  decrease  in  fact,  rather  on  the  contrary,  it  is  the  source of  thousands  of  increases.  It  is  like  someone  who  takes  purgative  as system-cleanser  or  lets  blood  as  a  therapeutic  measure;  he  looks  weak  on  the  outside  and  seems  to  miss  something  in  his  body  but  those  who  know  regard  this  ‘decrease’  to  be  a  fore-runner  of  his  ‘increase’  in  health  and  strength.

According  to  some  scholars  of  tafsir,  this  verse  does  not  refer  to  the  prohibition  of  usury  or  interest  at  all,  rather,  the  word  ‘riba’  used  in  that  verse  refers  to  a  gift  presented  to  someone,  not  in  good  faith,  but  with  the  intention  that  it  would  bring  back  some  better  gift  in  return  from  the  receiver.  The  gifts  of  this  type  are  in  vogue  in  some communities  at  the  time  of  marital  ceremonies.  Since  this  type  of  giving  is  to  seek  selfish  ends  and  not  to  seek  the  pleasure  of  Allah  Almighty,  therefore,  it  was  said  in  the  verse  that  by  doing  so  your wealth  may  seem  to  increase,  but  actually  it  does  not  increase  with  Allah,  while  that  which  is  given  as  zakah  and  sadaqat  to  seek  the pleasure  of  Allah  Almighty  goes  on  to  double  and  redouble  with  Allah.
According  to  this  explanation,  the  sense  of  the  verse  will  match with  what  was  said  addressing  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  in  another  verse  (74:6): that  is,  do  not  do  favour  to  anyone  with  the  intention  that  it  may  bring  to  you  some  added  benefit  in  return.

This  second  explanation  appears  to  be  obviously  weightier  in  connection  with  this  verse  of  Surah  al-Rum.  Firstly,  because  Surah  al-Rum  is  Makki.  Although,  it  is  not  necessary  that  every  verse  in  a  Makki  Surah  is  revealed  in  Makkah,  yet  there  exists  strong  probability  that  it  is  so  unless  proved  otherwise.  And  in  case  the  verse  is  Makki,  it  cannot  be  interpreted  to  carry  the  sense  of  the  prohibition  of  riba  because  the  prohibition  of  riba  came  by  revelation  in  Madinah.  In  addition  to  this,  the  subject  dealt  with  earlier  than  this  verse  also  indicates  a  tilt  towards  this  explanation.  There  it  was  said: ‘Give  to  the  relative  his  due,  and  to  the  poor  and  the  wayfarer.  This  is  better  for  those  who  seek  the pleasure  of  Allah.’

In  this  verse,  it  has  been  stated  that  spending  on  relatives,  the  poor  and  the  wayfarers  can  become  an  act  of  thawab  only  on  the condition  that  the  intention  behind  it  should  be  that  of  seeking  the  pleasure  of  Allah  Almighty.  Then,  following  that,  in  the  verse  under  discussion,  it  was  further  explained  that  financial  help  given  to  someone  with  the  hope  that  it  will  bring  back  greater  return  from  the receiver  of  the  help  is  certainly  no  spending  in  the  way  of  Allah  where  the  purpose  is  hardly  to  seek  His  pleasure.  As  a  result,  this  will  bring no  thawiib.

Anyhow,  there  are,  beside  this  particular  verse,  several  other verses  cited  earlier  which  do  deal  with  the  prohibition  of  riba.  Out  of  these,  there  is  the  verse  from  Surah Al-‘Imran  which  prohibits  doubled and  multiplied  riba;  the  rest  of  the  verses  state  the  prohibition  of  riba as  such.  These  details,  at  the  least,  clear  this  much  that  riba  is  haraam  (unlawful)  anyway,  be  it  doubled  and  multiplied,  simple  or  compound. It  may  be  kept  in  mind  that  the  degree  of  its  being  haraam  is  so  severe  that  a  declaration  of  war  has  been  made  on  behalf  of  Allah  and  His Messenger  against  those  who  challenge  the  injunction.

Some  additional  details  about  Riba

Since  riba  has  become  the  supporting  pillar  of  the  prevailing  trading  system  today,  it  is  commonly  noticed  that  people  are  usually disposed  to  balk  at  the  idea  of  its  unlawfulness  when  confronted  with  its  prohibition  under  the  verses  of  the  Book  of  Allah  and  the  Traditions  of  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam).  Rather  than  understand  and  explain  its  real  nature,  they  tend  to  diffuse  the  issue  with  excuses.  I  wish  to  state  humbly  that  the  issue  has  to  be  first  analysed  and discussed  sanely  by  taking  up  each  aspect  in  its  proper  setting,  without  which  we  are  sure  to  end  up  confusing  issues.  There  are  three  parts  of  this  discussion:

1.  What  is  the  real  nature  of  riba  in  the  Qur’an  and  Sunnah, and  what  forms  it  does  it  cover?

2.  What  is  the  wisdom  behind  the  prohibition  of  this  riba?

3.  Granted  that  riba,  no  matter  how  evil  it  may  be,  has  become  a  pillar  of  the  economic  system  all  over  the  contemporary  world.  Now  if  we  were  to  abandon  it,  under  injunctions  of  the  Qur’an,  how  will  the  system  of  banking  and  trade  run?

To  begin  with,  the  word,  Riba  is  a  well-known  word  in  the Arabic  language.  This  word  was  known,  not  only  since  the  blessed  appearance  of  the  noble  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam),  but  also  during  the  time  when  Arabia  was  pagan  and  the  Qur’an  was  not  yet  revealed.  Moreover,  the verses  of  Surah  al-Nisa’  also  tell  us  that  the  word  riba  and  its  related dealings  were  equally  well-known  during  the  times  of  the  Torah,  where  too,  it  was  declared  haraam  (unlawful). 

It  is  obvious  that  riba  was  known,  since  ages  in  Arabia  and  its  environs.  Continuous  transactions  were  being  made  as  an  established  custom.  When  the  Qur’an  was  revealed,  it  not  only  prohibited  riba  but also  gave  the  information  that  riba  was  made  unlawful  for  the  community  of  Musa  (alayhissalaam)  as  well.  How  then,  can  the  nature  of  this word  become  something  so  ambiguous  that  it  starts  presenting  difficulties  in understanding  and  explaining its  meaning  and  applications?

This  is  the  reason  why,  in  the  year  of  Hijrah  8,  when  the  verses  of  Surah  al-Baqarah  relating  to  the  unlawfulness  of  riba  were  revealed,  there  appears  no  report  from  the  noble  Companions  anywhere  which  may  indicate  that  they  had  to  face  any  doubt  In  understanding  the real  nature  of  riba,  and  that  they  had  to  go  as  far  as  to  verify  it  with the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  himself, something  they  did  in  other  matters.  On  the  contrary,  just  as  they  immediately  acted  upon  the  injunction  prohibiting  liquor  the  moment  it  was  revealed,  very  similarly,  they abandoned  all  riba  transactions  the  moment  the  injunction  prohibiting riba  was  revealed.  The  Muslims  just  cancelled  all  riba  amounts  that  non-Muslims  owed  to  them  on  all  their  deals  made  before  the prohibition.  Then,  the  case  of  Muslims  who  did  not  wish  to  give  riba  amounts  they  owed  was  brought  to  the  court  of  the  Amir  of  Makkah.  He  inquired  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam).  The  deciding  injunction  was revealed  by  Allah  Almighty  through  the  verses  of  Surah  al-Baqarah  which  declared  that  it  was  also  not  permissible  now  to  give  or  take  riba  amounts that  belonged  to  the  previous  times. 

Here  the  non-Muslims  might  have  found  the  ground  to  question  as  to  why  should  they  suffer  loss  of  money  because  of  an  injunction  of Islamic  law?  Therefore,  in  order  to  offset  that  possibility,  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  made  it  clear  in  his  Address  of  the  Last  Hajj  that  this  injunction  of  Islamic  law  affects,  not  only  the  non-Muslims,  but  also  the  Muslims  in  an  equal  degree.  And  the  very  first  amount  of  riba  that was  written  off  was  the  enormous  amount  which  belonged  to  Sayyidina  ‘Abbas  (radhiyallahu  anhu), the  respected  uncle  of  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam). 

In  short,  when  riba  was  prohibited,  its  meaning  was  no  secret.  It  was  a  known  practice.  It  was  the  same  riba  as  the  Arabs  used  to  give and  take  it  and  called  it  as such.  The  Qur’an  made  it  haraam,  and  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  enforced  the  ruling,  not  in  the  form  of  some  moral  teaching,  but  as  the  law  of  the  land.  However,  he  did  include  certain forms  of  transactions  under  riba  which  were  not  generally  held  to  be riba.  It  was  the  determining  of  these  very  forms  that  posed  difficulties for  Sayyidina  ‘Umar (radhiyallahu  anhu),  and  here  it  was  that  the  leading  jurists  of  Islam  differed;  otherwise,  the  real  riba,  which  the  Arabs  knew  by that  very  name,  was  never  doubted  or  questioned  by  anybody  as  there  was  no  reason  to  do  so.

Now  let  us  find  out  what  riba  the  Arabs  were  used  to.  The renowned  commentator,  Ibn  Jarir  has  reported  from  Sayyidina  Mujahid  that  the  riba  practised  in  pagan  Arabia  which  was  prohibited  by  the  Qur’an  consisted  of  giving  loan  for  a  fixed  period  and  then taking  a  fixed  increase  over  and  above  the  principal.  If  the  loan  was  not  paid  back  on  the  fixed  date,  an  extension  of  time  was  granted  on  condition  that  the  riba  was  to  be  further  increased.  The  same information  has  been  reported  from  Sayyidina  Qatadah  (radhiyallahu  anhu)  from  other  leading  commentators.  (Tafsir Ibn  Jarir, page 62, volume 3)

Abu  Hayyan  al-Gharnati,  the  famous  commentator  from  Andulusia  (Spain)  has,  in  his  commentary – al-Bahr  al-Muhit,  reported  the  same  form  of  riba  prevailing  in  pagan  Arabia,  that  is,  they  advanced  a  loan, took  their  ‘profit’  on  it,  and  if  the  time  for  repayment  was  to  be extended  beyond  the  first  due  date,  they  increased  the  amount  of  interest  In  that  proportion.  This  was  called  riba.  These  were  the  people  of  the  same  pagan  Arabia  who  said  that  taking  ‘profit’  when  they  give  their  money  on  loan  should  also  be  permissible  similar  to  buying  and selling  where  taking  ‘profit’  is  permissible.  The  Holy  Qur’an  declared this  to  be  haraam  and  made  it  clear  that  the  injunctions  governing  buying  and  selling  were  different. The  same  subject  has  been  authentically  narrated  in  all  reliable books  of  Tafasir, such  as,  Tafsir  Ibn  Kathir, al-Tafsir al-Kabir and  Ruh al-Ma’ani  etc.

Ibn  al-‘Arabi  has  said  in Ahkam  al-Qur’an:

Lexically,  riba  means  increase,  and  in  the  verse,  it  means  the increase  against  which  there  is  nothing  in  exchange  but  a loan  and  its  time. 

Imam  al-Razi  has  said  in  his  Tafsir  that  riba  takes  two  forms.  It could  be  riba  in  trading  transactions,  and  in  loans.  This  second  formwas  what  commonly  prevailed  in  Jahiliyyah  or  pagan  Arabia.  The  known  practice  was  that  they  would  give  their  money  on  loan  to  someone  for  a  fixed  period  of  time  and  receive  ‘profit’  against  it  every month.  If  the  borrower  failed  to  pay  back  at  the  appointed  time,  the time-limit  was  extended  on  condition  that  the  amount  of  riba  was  to  be further  increased.  This  was  the  riba  of  the  Age  of  Ignorance (Jahiliyyah)  which  was  declared  haraam  (unlawful) by  the  Holy  Qur’an.

In  Ahkam  al-Qur’an,  Imam  al-Jassas  defines  riba  as  follows:

The  loan  given  for  a  certain  time  on  condition  that  the  borrower  will  pay  an  increased  amount  above  the  principal.  In  hadith, the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  has  defined  ribiiby  saying:

The  loan  that  draws  profit  is  riba.   

This  hadith  appears  in  al-Jami’ al-Saghir  and  al-Azizi  calls  it  hasan

To  sum  up,  the  giving  of  loan  and  then  taking  ‘profit’  on  it  is  riba, which  was  widely  known  and  practised  during  the  Jahiliyyah  in  Arabia,  which  was  clearly  declared  haraam  by  the  subject  verse  of  the  Holy  Qur’an,  and  which  was  abandoned  by  the  noble  Companions  the  moment  these  verses  were  revealed,  and  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  enforced  its  prohibition  through  his  judgments  in  the  legal  suits.  As  there  was  no  ambiguity  in its  connotation,  nobody  faced  any  doubt  or  difficulty  in understanding  the  term.

However,  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  did  include  some  forms  of  buying and  selling  within  the  range  of  riba  which  the  Arabs  did  not  take  as  riba.  For  instance,  in  the  buying  and  selling  of  six  commodities  on  barter  basis,  he  ruled  that  they  be  exchanged  like  for  like,  equal  for  equal,  and  hand-to-hand.  Any  deviation  in  measure,  more  or  less, and  any  credit-oriented  transaction  with  regard  to  these  commodities  will also  fall  within  the  purview  of  riba.  These  six  commodities  are  gold, silver,  wheat,  barley,  dates  and  grapes.

Under  the  same  principle,  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam),  after  the  revelation  of  the  verses  of  riba,  ruled  that  some  forms  of  transactions  in  vogue  known  as  al-Muzabanah (i.e. is  the  sale  of  fruit  upon  its  tree  by  taking  fruit  already  plucked  on  the  basis  of  conjecture)  and  al-Muhaqalah  (i.e. is  the  sale  of  grains,  such  as  wheat,  chick-peas  etc,  still  in  the  ears  of  their  standing  crop  by  taking  dried  and  husked  wheat  or chick-peas  on  the  basis  of  conjecture.  Since  conjecture  has  the  possibility  of  things  turning  out  less  or  more,  it  was  prohibited) come  under  riba, and  therefore,  declared  them  to  be  haraam.  (Ibn  Kathir  with  reference  to  Mustadrak  Hakim,  page  327,  Volume  1).

Here  the  question  worth  consideration  was:  Are  these  six  commodities  particular  as  such,  or  there  are  other  commodities  also  which  fall  under  the  same  injunction?  If  there  are  some,  what  shall  be the  the  basis  for  including  other  commodities  under  the  same  rule?  What  forms  shall  be  taken  to  have  come  under  riba?  This  was  the  difficulty  faced  by  Sayyidna  ‘Umar  (radhiyallahu  anhu)  because  of  which  he  said: 

The  verse  of  riba  is  among  the  last  verses  of  the  Qur’an.  The Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  was  taken  away  before  he  could  make  its details  clear  for  us.  So  give  up  not  only  riba  but  also  all  the doubtful  transactions.  (Ahkam  al-Qur’an,  Jassas,  page  551  and  Taf’sir Ibn Kathir, with  reference  to  Ibn  Majah,  page  328,  volume  1).

Here  Sayyidna  ‘Umar  (radhiyallahu  anhu)  is  talking  about  the  particular  forms  of  buying  and  selling  transactions,  and  their  details,  which  were not  taken  as  riba  in  Jahiliyyah.  Bringing  these  under  the  category  of  riba,  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  made  them  Haraam.  As  regards  the  main  riba, which  was  commonly  known  in  Arabia  and  which  was  abandoned  by  the  noble  Companions  and  was  enforced  by  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  announcing  its  prohibition  publicly  during  his  Address  of  the  Last Hajj,  it  was  not  possible  at  all  that  Sayyidina  ‘Umar  (radhiyallahu  anhu)  would  have  faced  any  difficulty  or  doubt  in  understanding  it.  Moreover,  when Sayyidna  ‘Umar  (radhiyallahu  anhu)  did  face  doubt  in  certain  forms  of  riba,  he  resolved  the  problem  by  proposing  that  the  forms  where  there  is  the  least  doubt  of  riba  should  also  be  abandoned. 

But  it  is  surprising  that  some  of  those  who  are  slavishly  impressed  by  the  veneer  of  glamour,  wealth  and  the  interest-based  trading  system  of  today,  have  deduced  from  this  saying  of  Sayyidina  ‘Umar that  the  sense  of  riba  had  thus  been  left  abstract  and  that  there  is  room  for  personal  opinion  here,  the  error  of  which  has  already  been  proved  by  a  lot  of  material  before  us.  In  Ahkam  al-Qur’an,  Ibn al-‘Arabi has  strongly  refuted  those  who  had  used  the  words  of Sayyidina  ‘Umar  to  classify  the  verses  of  riba  as  abstract.  He  says:

He  who  claimed  that  this  verse  is  abstract  did  not  understand the  clear  and  confident  affirmation  of  the  Shari’ah because  Allah  Almighty  sent  His  messenger  to  a  people  of  whom  he  was  one,  sent  him  (speaking)  in  their  language,  revealed  His Book  to  him  so  that  they  comprehend  it  easily  in  their  language,  and  in their  language  the  word  riba  means ‘increase’;  and  in  the  verse,  it  means  the  increase  that  has  no financial  consideration  against  it,  (but  simply  time).

Imam al-Razi  has  said  in  his  commentary that  riba  is  of  two  kinds  – the  riba  on  loans  and  the  riba  of  taking  more  on  barter.  The  first  kind  was  well-known  in  Jahiliyyah  and  people  during  those  days  used  to transact  it  freely.  The  second  kind  is  what  comes  through  the  hadith  which  rules  that  increase  or  decrease  in  the  barter  of  certain  commodities  is  also  included  under  riba.

It  appears  in  Ahkam  al-Qur’an  of  al-Jassas  that  riba  is  of  two  kinds – the  riba  in  buying  and  selling  and  the  riba  without  buying  and  selling.  The  riba  of  Jahiliyyah  belonged  to  this  very  second  kind.  By  definition  it  means  the  loan  on  which  ‘profit’  is  taken  on  the  basis  of time  duration.  Ibn  Rushd  has,  in  Bidayah  al-Mujtahid, taken  the  same  view,  and  has  further  proved  the  unlawfulless  of  the  riba  of  taking  profit’  on  loans,  on  the  authority  of  the  Qur’an,  the  Sunnah  and  the consensus  of  the  Muslim  community.

In  Sharh  Ma’ani  al-Athar,  Imam  al-Tahawi  has  taken  up  this subject  in  great  detail.  He  has  said  that  the  riba  mentioned  in  the  Qur’an  is,  openly  and  clearly,  the  riba  that  was  given  and  taken  on  loans,  and  it  was  known  as  riba  in  Jahiliyyah.  After  that,  it  was through  the  statement  of  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam),  and  his  Sunnah,  that the  other  kind  of  riba  became  known,  and  which  was  identified  with  increasing,  decreasing  or  non-cash  dealing  in  particular  types  of  buying  and  selling  activity.  That  this  riba  is  also  haraam  stands  proved  by  repeated  ahadith  of  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam).  However,  in  the  absence  of  fully  clear  details  governing  this  kind  of  riba  some  Companions  of  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  faced  difficulty  and jurists  differed.  (op cit.,  page  232.)

Shah Waliullah has  said  in Hujjatullah  al-balighah  that  these  are  two  separate  things.  One  is  the  riba  in  real  terms,  and  the  other  is  that which  is  included  in  the  prohibition  of  riba.  The  riba  in  real  terms means  something  additional  claimed  over  the  principal  in  a transaction  of  loan.  But  the  hadith  has  included  in the  prohibition  a  transaction  of  bartering  certain  commodities  whereby  an  additional measure  is  claimed  in  exchange  of  the  same  commodity.  When  it appears  in  the  hadith  of  Sahih  al-Bukhari  that: “There  is  no  riba  except  in  nasi’ah  {loan}”, it  simply  means  that  the  real  and primary  riba,  the  one  that  is  commonly  understood  and  termed  as  riba, is  nothing  but  taking  ‘profit’  on  loans.  Excepting  this,  all  other  kinds have  been annexed  with  it  by  extending  prohibition  to  all  of  them.

Summing  up  the  discussion

1.  Riba  was  already  a  known  transaction  before  the  revelation  of  the  Qur’an.  The  taking  of  increase  on  loans  given  for  a  certain  time was  called  riba.

2.  The  noble  Companions,  all  of  them,  abandoned  this  riba  the  moment  its  unlawfulness  was  revealed  in  the  Qur’an.  None  of  them  had  any  difficulty  or  doubt  in  comprehending  or  explaining  its meaning.

3.  In  the  barter  transactions  of  six  commodities  it  was  declared  by the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallahu  alayhi  wasallam)  that  whenever  any  one  of  these  is  bartered  with  a  similar  commodity,  both  of  them  must  be  equal  in  weight  or  measure. Any  increase  or  decrease  in  such  transations  has  been  declared  as  included  in  the  prohibition  of  riba.  This  much  was  expressly  told  by  the Holy  Prophet (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam).  But  the  question  was  whether  this  special  type  of  prohibition  is  restricted  to  these  six  commodities  alone  or  it  extends  to  some  other  commodities  also,  and  if  it  extends  to  some  other commodities,  on  what  basis  one  can  identify  those  commodities.  This question  needed  a  deeper  insight  into  the  juristic  issues  involved,  and the  Muslim  jurists  came  out  with  different  suggestions  to  answer  this  question.  It  was  this  very  question  that  agitated  the  mind  of  Sayyidina ‘Umar  (radhiyallahu anhu).  Since  the  Holy  Prophet (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  had  not  stated  these  rules  himself  and  because  doubt  lurked  therein,  Sayyidina  ‘Umar  (radhiyallahu  anhu)  regretfully  wished  how  good  it  would  have  been  if  the  Messenger  of Allah (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  had  set  the  relevant  rules  himself  which  would  have  given them  peace  of  mind  in  doubtful  situations.  Then  he  said  that  not  only  riba,  but  also  the  very  doubt  of  riba, wherever  it  may  be,  should  be avoided.

4.  It  is  certain  that  the  real  and  primary  riba,  which  the  Muslim  jurists  have  called  “riba  al-Qur’an”  (the  riba  of  Qur’an)  or  “riba al-Qard” (the  riba  of  loan), is  exactly  what  was  known  and  practised  in  Arabia,  that  is,  claiming  ‘profit’  on  loan  against  the  time  allowed  for  repayment.  Other  kinds  of  riba  identified  in  hadith  are  all  annexed  to this  very  riba  and  come  under  the  injunction  governing  it.  As  regards the  difference  of  opinion  that  rose  in  the  community  was  exclusively  related  to  this  second  type  of  riba  deals.  The  first  kind  of  riba  is  called  ‘riba  al-Qard’  or  “the  riba  of  Qur’an”;  that  it  is  categorically  haraam  (forbidden)  has  never  been  disputed  in  the  Muslim  community.

In  short,  the  riba  of  today  which  is  supposed  to  be  the  pivot  of  human  economy  and  features  in  discussions  on  the  problem  of  interest,  is  nothing  but  this  riba,  the  unlawfulness  of  which  stands  proved  on  the  authority  of  the  seven  verses  of  the  Qur’an,  of  more  than forty  ahadith  and  of  the  consensus  of  the  Muslim  community.

The  second  kind  of  riba  which  occurs  in  buying  and  selling  is neither  common  in  practice,  nor  requires  any  discussion  here.

Upto  this  point,  effort  was  made  to  clarify  the  meaning  of  riba  as  contemplated  in  the  Qur’an  and  Sunnah,  which  is  the  first  step  towards  understanding  the  problem  of  interest.

The  Wisdom  behind  the  Prohibition  of  Riba

Now  comes  the  second  part  of  the  discussion  which  relates  to  the  wisdom  behind  the  prohibition  of  riba  and  to  the  spiritual  and  economic  harms  of  riba  transactions  because  of  which  Islam  has  declared  it  to  be  such  a  major  sin. 

First  of  all,  we  should  realize  that  there  is  nothing  in  the  entire creation  of  the  world  which  has  no  goodness  or  utility  at  all.  Even  in serpents,  scorpions,  wolves,  lions,  and  in  arsenic,  that  fatal  poison,  there  are  thousands  of  utilities  for  human  beings.  Is  there  anything  in  this  vastness  of  nature  which  could  really  be  called  bad?  Take  theft,  robbery,  villainy,  bribery  –  not  one  of  these  remains  without  this  or that  benefit.  But,  it  is  commonly  recognized  in  every  religion  and  community,  in  every  school  of  thought,  that  things  which  have  more benefits  and  less  harms  are  called  beneficial  and  useful.  Conversely, things  that  cause  more  harm  and  less  benefit  are  taken  to  be  harmful  and  useless.  Even  the  noble  Qur’an,  while  declaring  liquor  and gambling  to  be  haraam,  proclaimed  that  they  do  hold  some  benefits  for  people,  but  the  curse  of  sins  they  generate  is  far  greater  than  the benefits  they  yield.  Therefore,  these  cannot  be  called  good  or  useful;  on  the  contrary,  taking  these  to  be  acutely  harmful  and  destructive,  it  is necessary  that  they  be  avoided.
The  case  of  riba  is  not  different.  Here  the  consumer  of  riba  does  have  some  temporal  benefit  apparently  coming  to  him,  but  its  curse  in this  world  and  in  the  Hereafter  is  much  too  severe  as  compared  to  this benefit. 

An  intelligent  person  who  compares  things  in  terms  of  their  profit  and  loss,  harm  and  benefit  can  hardly  include  things  of  casual  benefit  with  an  everlasting  loss  in  the  list  of  useful  things.  Similarly,  no  sane  and  just  person  will  say  that  personal  and  individual  gain,  which  causes  loss  to  the  whole  community  or  group,  is  useful.  In  theft,  and  in  robbery,  the  gain  of  the  gangster  and  the  take  of  the  thief  is  all  too  obvious,  but  it  is  certainly  harmful  for  the  entire  community  since  it  ruins  its  peace  and  sense  of  security.  That  is  why  no  human  being  calls  theft  and  robbery  good. 

After  these  introductory  remarks,  let  us  look  at  the  problem  of  riba.  A  little  deliberation  will  show  that  its  spiritual  and  moral  loss  as  compared  to  the  casual  or  transitory  profit  earned  by  the riba-consumer  is  so  severe  that  it  virtually  takes  away  the  great  quality  of  being  ‘human’  from  him.  Again,  it  should  be  borne  in  mind  that  the  transitory  gain  that  comes  to  him  is  restricted  to  his  person only.  As  compared  to  this,  the  entire  community,  victimized  by economic  crisis,  suffers  great  loss.  But,  strange  are  the  affairs of  the world.  When  something  becomes  the  craze  of  the  time,  its  drawbacks go  out  of  sight.  One  looks  for  nothing  but  gains  –  no  matter  how  small,  mean  and  casual  be  those  gains.  Nobody  cares  to  look  at  the  harm lying  under  them  –  no  matter  how  fatal  and  universal  it  may  be.

Custom  and  practice  act  like  chloroform  on  human  temperaments. They  make  them  insensitive,  There  are  very  few  individuals  who  would  investigate  into  prevailing  customs  and  practices  and  then  try  to  understand  how  beneficial  or  harmful  they  are.  Bad  coming  to  worse,  even  if  such  harms  are  identified  and  people  are  openly  warned of  the  dangers,  the  conformity  to  prevailing  custom  and  practice  is  such  that  the  right  course  is just  not  taken.

Riba  has  become  an  epidemic  in  modern  times  holding  the  entire  world  squeezed  in  its  clutches.  In  fact,  it  has  so  reversed  the  very  taste  of  human  nature  that  the  bitter  has  started  tasting  sweet.  That  which  is  the  cause  of  economic  ruin  for  the  entire  humanity  is  being  dished  out  as  the  solution  of  economic  ills.  The  situation  is  such  that  a  thinker  who  raises  his  voice  in  protest  is  brushed   aside  as  crazy.  All  this  is  what  it  is.  But  a  physician  of  humanity  must  remain  the physician  he  is.  Should  he,  after  having  closely  observed  that  epidemic  has  spread  in  an  area  and  treatment  has  become  ineffective,  start  thinking  of  telling  people  that  there  is  just  no  disease  around  and everything  is  fine,  he  then  becomes  a  killer  of  humanity  robbing  it  of  its  potential.  It  is  the  duty  of  a  really  expert  physician  of  human  affairs,  even  at  a  time  such  as  this,  that  he  should  continue  telling people  about  the  disease  and  its  harmful  effects  and  keep  suggesting  ways  it  could  be  cured.

The  prophets (alayhimussalaam)  come  to  reform  human  society.  Whether  or  not  they  will  be  heard  is  something  they  never  worry  about.  If  they  had  waited  for  people  to  hear  and  obey  them,  kufr  and  shirk  would  have  certainly  filled  the  whole  world.  Incidentally,  who  believed  in  the Kalimah  La Ilaha Il Allah “There  is  no  God  but  Allah”  when  the  Last  of  the  Prophets  (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam)  was  ordained  by  Allah  for  its  preaching  and  teaching?

Although  riba  is  taken  to  be  the  backbone  of  contemporary economy,  but  the  truth  of  the  matter  is,  what  some  Western  thinkers  have  themselves  admitted,  that  it  is  no  backbone  of  economics,  rather on  the  contrary,  it  is  a  worm  grown  in  and  feeding  on  it. 

But  it  is  regrettable  that  even  theoreticians  and  scientists  of  today  are  unable  to  free  themselves  from  the  stranglehold  of  custom  and practice  and  do  some  serious  thinking  in  this  direction.  How  is  it  that  even  the  experience  of  hundreds  of  years  fails  to  attract  their  attention  towards  the  ultimate  outcome  of  riba  or  interest,  which  is  nothing except  that  peoples  and  communities  around  the  world  suffer  from  want  and  hunger,  become  victims  of  many  an  economic  crisis  and  the  poor  grow  poorer.  As  compared  to  their  fate,  some  capitalists  take advantage  of  the  wealth  of  the  whole  community,  become  its  leeches  sucking  blood  from  the  body  of  the  community  and  helping  themselves  to  grow  and  prosper.  The  gall  of  these  intellectuals  is  indeed  surprising.  When  this  reality  is presented  before  them,  they  would  like  to  refute  us  by  taking  us  to  the  market  places  of  U.S.A.  and  E.E.C.  so  that  we  could  observe  the  blessings  of  interest.  They  like  us  to  be impressed  by  the  prosperity  they  have  acquired  through  it.  In  fact,  this  is  like  taking  us  to  show  the  blessings  of  acts  committed  by  some  nation  of  man-eaters  and  telling  us  how  chubby  and  flushed  with  ‘health’  they  are  in  their  residences  and  work-places.  Then  to  top  that  assertion,  effort  is  made  to  prove  on  this  basis,  that  this  act  of  theirs  is the  best  of  acts.

However,  in  answer  to  that,  any  sane  and  just  person  would  simply  suggest  that  the  ‘blessings’  of  the  act  of  man-eaters  cannot  be  observed  in  the  habitat  of  the  man-eaters.  One  has  to  go  to  other  habitats  where  lie  dead  bodies  in  thousands  and  thousands  on  whose  blood  and  flesh these  beasts  have  grown.  Islam  and  the  Shari’ah  of  Islam  can  never accept  such  an  act  as  correct  and  useful,  as  a  result  of  which,  the  humanity  in  general  and  the  Muslim  community  in  particular  becomes  a  target  of  destruction  while  some  individuals,  or  their  groups,  go  on  prospering. 

Economic  Drawbacks  of  Riba  or  Interest

If  there  was  no  other  defect  in  rib6  except  that  it  results  in  the  gain of  some  individuals  and  the  loss  of  the  whole  humanity,  that  one  and very  defect  would  have  been  enough  to  justify  its  prohibition  and  hate-worthiness,  although,  it  does  have  many  other  economic  drawbacks  and  spiritual  disasters.

First  of  all,  let  us  understand  how  riba  is  the  gain  of  particular  individuals  and  the  loss  of  a  community  in  general.  The  hackneyed  method  of  riba  practised  by  usurers  was  so  crude  that  even  a  person  of ordinary  common-sense  could  see  how  it  benefitted  a  particular  person  and  harmed  the  community  in  general.  But  ‘the  new  enlightenment’  of today,  or  shall  we  call  it  ‘the  new  darkness’,  by  producing  ‘purified’ liquor  through  mechanical  processing  and  aging,  by  inventing  new  and fancy  forms  for  theft  and  robbery,  and  by  innovating  novel  covers  for evil  and  immodesty,  has  made  everybody  so  ‘civilized’  that  watchers  of  the  surface  are  unable  to  see  the  evil  hidden  behind.  Very  similar  to  this,  in  order  to  continue  the  practice  of  riba  or  interest,  individual money-lending  counters  have  been  replaced  by  joint  stock  companies  called  banks.  Now,  to  throw  dust  in  everybody’s  eyes,  consumers  are  ‘educated’  that  this  modern  method  of  riba  is  good  for  the  whole community  because  common  people  do  not  know  how  to  run  a  business  with  their  money,  or  cannot  do  so  due  to  shortage  of  capital,  so  money they  all  have  goes  as  deposit  in  banks  and  everyone  of  them  manages  to  get,  no  matter  how  little,  some  profit  in  the  name  of  interest.  In  addition  to  that,  big  businessmen  are  given  the  opportunity  to  borrow money  on  interest  from  banks,  invest  in  big  business  and  reap  the  benefits.  Thus  interest  has  been  made  to  appear  as  some  sort  of  ‘blessing’  which  is  reaching  all  individuals  of  the  community!

However,  a  little  honesty  will  show  that  this  is  a  grand  deception  which, by  transforming  dirty  distilleries  into  posh  hotels  and  hooker-dens  into  cinemas  and  night  clubs,  has  been  released  to present  poison  as  antidote,  and  the  harmful  as  beneficial.  Intelligent  people  have  no  problem  in  seeing  through  the  deceptive  covering  placed  on  anti-moral  crimes.  They  know  it  has  inevitably  increased  crimes,  spreading  its  poison  more  acutely  than  ever  before.  Similar  is  the  case  of  riba,  the  new  form  of  which,  by  making  the  masses  have  a  sip  of  an  insignificant  percentage  of  interest,  has  made  them accomplices  in  their  crime;  while  at  the  same  time,  they  opened  for  themselves  limitless  opportunities  to  keep  committing  this  crime.

Who  does  not  know  that  this  insignificant  percentage  of  interest  doled  out  by  ‘saving’  banks  and  post  offices  to  clients  cannot,  by  any means,  take  care  of  their  living  expenses.  They  are,  therefore,  forced  to  go  for  manual  labour  or  seek  a  job.  Business  is  something  they  hardly  think  of  themselves,  and  if  somebody  does  play  with  the  idea  for  a while,  the  problem  is  that  the  capital  of  the  entire  community  sits  in  the  banks  and  the  shape  of  things  in  business  is  such  that  a  person  with  a  small  capital  can  hardly  make  an  entry  there  unless  he  wishes to  commit  suicide.  The  reason  is  that  banks  can  advance  a  major  loan only  to  one  who  has  sound  credit  and  large  business.  One  who  has  a million  can  get  a  loan  of  ten  millions.  He  can  run  a  business  valued  ten  times  more  than  his  personal  capital  would  allow.  In  contrast,  the  man  with  a  small  capital  has  little  or  no  credit  rating;  the  banks  do  not  trust  him  enough  to  advance  a  loan  ten  times  more  than  his  worth. One  who  owns  a  thousand  can  hardly  get  an  even  thousand,  let  alone  ten  thousand.  Take  the  case  of  a  person  who  owns  a  hundred  thousand and  runs  a  business  worth  a  million  by  using  nine  hundred  thousand  of  bank  money.  Suppose  he  earns  a  profit  of  one  per  cent  which  means  he  has  earned  a  ten  per  cent  profit  on  his  hundred  thousand.  In  comparison,  a  person  who  uses  his  personal  hundred  thousand  in  business,  will  earn  a  profit  of  no  more  than  one  per  cent  on  his hundred  thousand,  which  would  be  hardly  enough  to  cover  even  his  operating  expenses.  Then  there  is  yet  another  factor;  the  man  with  a  large  capital  can  buy  raw  material  from  the  market  at  a  price  so  low and  discounted  which  the  small  capitalist  cannot  get.  As  a  result,  the  man  with  a  small  capital  is  rendered  helpless  and  needy.  Should  he,  secretly  pursued  by  his  misfortune,  put  his  foot  into  some  such business  already  monopolized  by  big  capitalists,  they  will  then,  taking  him  to  be  an  unwelcome  partner  in  their  godhood,  make  the  market collapse,  even  if  it  be  at  their  cost,  making  the  small  capitalist  lose  all  his  capital  and  profit.  This  is  why  business  gets  monoplized  by  some individuals  who  happen  to  be  big  capitalists.

Let  us  consider  some  other  injuries  caused  by  this  interest-oriented  economic  system:

1.  First  comes  the  great  injustice  inflicted  on  the  community  when  a  whole  set  of  people  are  deprived  of  the  opportunity  to  engage  in  real business,  and  are  reduced  to  economic  slavery  of  big  capitalists,  who  elect  to  give  them  a  ‘profit’  of  their  choice  as  some  tip.

2.  Another  loss  that  affects  the  whole  country  comes  through  the  monopolization  of  market  rates  of  commodities  made  possible  by  this  system.  They  sell  high  and  fill  their  coffers  by  emptying  the  pockets  of  the  whole  community.  Worse  still,  they  have  the  evil  choice  of  stopping  the  sale  of  their  holdings  in  order  to  further  increase  prices  by  design.  If  these  selfish  people  were  not  allowed  to  feed  on  the  combined  capital of  the  community  through  the  agency  of  banks,  and  if  they  were  left
with  no  other  alternative  but  to  run  their  business  with  their  personal  capital,  things  would  be  different.  The  small  capitalist  would  have  been  saved  from  distress  and  these  self-serving  people  would  not  be  sitting  as  demi-gods  on  all  trading  options.  The  investors  with  a  small  capital,  by  showing  profits  in  business  ventures,  would  have  given impetus  to  others.  More  and  more  businesses  would  come  up  managed  by  separate  staffers  giving  livelihood  to  thousands  of  needy  individuals besides  making  business  profits  fairly  widespread,  and  of  course,  the  general  availability  of  merchandise  in  the  market  would  be  favourably  affected.  The  reason  is  competition  which  motivates  a  businessman  to  reduce  his  margin  of  profit.

In  short,  this  Machiavellian  method  has  infected  nations  and  communities  with  a  fatal  disease,  apart  from  the  brain-washing  it  has  done  which  makes  the  patient  take  disease  as the  cure.

3.  Now  let  us  look  at  the  third  economic  disaster  engineered through  bank  interests.  Here  is  a  person  with  a  capital  of  ten thousand  and  he  goes  in  business  worth  a  hundred  thousand,  the  additional  capital  advanced  by  a  bank  as  interest-bearing  loan.  If  by chance,  he  is  hit  by  loss,  his  capital  sinks  and  he  goes  insolvent  then  the  outcome  is  interesting.  Just  imagine  that  he  bears  only  ten  per cent  of  the  loss,  while  the  rest  of  the  loss,  that  is  ninety  per  cent,  is absorbed  by  the  whole  community,  whose  money  he  had  borrowed  from  the  bank  to  invest  in  his  business.  Even  if  the  bank  writes  off  the  loss  as  an  interim  measure,  it  is  clear  that  the  bank  is  the  pocket  of  a  nation,  and  the  loss  will  ultimately  hit  the  nation.  The  outcome  is  that  the  borrowing  capitalist  was  the  sole  owner  of  the  profit  as  far  as  the profit  kept  coming,  leaving  nothing  or  very  little  for  the  community. When  came  the  loss,  it  was  passed  on  to  the  whole  community.

4.  Yet  another  economic  drawback  of  riba  lies  in  the  predicament  of  the  borrower  on  interest  when  he  is  hit  by  a  major  loss.  Once  this  happens  he  is  unable  to  survive  anymore.  To  begin  with,  he  never  had  enough  capital  the  loss  of  which  he  could  cushion.  The  loss  throws  him  into  a  double  distress.  Not  only  does  he  lose  his  profit  and  capital  but  also,  at the  same  time,  gets  buried  under  the  bank  loan  for  the  liquidation  of  which  he  has  no  means.  As  compared  to  this,  should  he  lose  his  entire  capital  in  an  interest-free  business,  he  would,  at  the  most  become  penniless  but,  burdened  with  debt  he  definitely  will  not  be.

In  1954,  the  cotton  business  of  Pakistan  suffered,  to  use  a  word  of  the  Qur’an,  with  the  calamity  of  muhaq  (i.e. destruction  by  loss).  The Government  rescued  the  businessmen  at  the  cost  of  millions  of  rupees  but  nobody  bothered  to  realize  that  all  this  was  a  curse  of  riba  or interest,  for  the  simple  reason  that  cotton  dealers  had  invested  mostly  bank-borrowed  capital  in  this  business.  Their  own  capital  was  insignificant.  As  Divine  decree  would  have  it,  the  cotton  market  fell  so sharply  that  its  price  zoomed  down  from  rupees  one  hundred  and  twenty-five  to  just  ten  rupees.  The  cotton  traders  were  rendered  incapable  of  returning  money  to  cover  bank  margins.  Left  with  no choice,  the  market  was  closed  down  and  an  SOS  was  sent  to  the Government.  The  Government  stepped  in  and  bought  off  the  stocks,  not  at  rupees  ten,  but  at  the  raised  price  of  ninety  rupees.  Thus  it  took upon  itself  the  loss  of  millions  and  saved  these  traders  from  going insolvent.  Whose  money  did  the  Government  have?  Naturally,  it  belonged  to  the  same  helpless  poor  nation,  the  Muslim  ummah!

In  short,  the  naked  result  of  banking  business  is  that  some individuals  reap  benefits  out  of  the  capital  of  the  entire  community  and  the  loss,  when  it  comes,  is  made  to  fall  on  the  whole  nation.

The  design for  deception

You  have  already  seen  how  riba  and  interest  prey  on  communities  and  nations  and  how  some  individuals  are  promoted  instead.  Along with  it,  you  would  do  well  to  discover  yet  another  demonstration  of  evil genius.  When  the  consumers  of  riba  realized,  out  of  their  own experience  as  well,  what  the  Qur’an  has  said  that  is,  earnings  of  interest  have  to  suffer  from  the  calamity  of  muhaq,  from  loss  and  destruction,  as  a  result  of  which  one  has  to  go  insolvent  –  they  established  two  permanent  institutions:  The  Insurance  and  the  Stock Exchange.  They  saw  that  losses  in  business  occur  for  two  reasons.  One  of  these  takes  the  form  of  natural  calamity  like  the  drowning  or burning  of  a  ship  or  some  such  mishap  of  some  other  nature.  The  other  could  be  that  market  rates  of  stock  in  hand  go  lower  than  its  purchase  price.  The  capital  invested  in  both  these  situations  is  the  jointly  owned capital  of  the  community,  not  that  of  the  individual  capitalist, therefore,  the  loss  of  the  community  is  higher,  and  that  of  the  individual  capitalist,  minimal.  But  they  did  not  stop  at  that.  In  order  to  shift  even  this  minimal  loss  factor  on  to  the  shoulders  of  the community,  they  floated  insurance  companies  which  hold  the  capital  of  the  community,  just  as  banks  do.  When  some  natural  calamity  inflicts losses  on  these  consumers  of  riba  they  use  the  medium  of  insurance  to  shift,  not  just  partial,  but  the  entire  loss  to  the  jointly  held  capital  of  the  community.

People  think  that  insurance  companies  are  God’s  mercy  as  they rescue  the  sinking.  But  should  they  observe  and  think  honestly,  they  would  start  seeing  the  same  deception  here  too.  Isn’t  it  that  their  capital  was  formed  by  contributions  from  the  community  enticed  by  the  promise  of  help  in  the  event  of  unforeseen  accidents.  The  truth  is  that  the  advantage  of  receiving  large  sums  of  money  is  derived  by  capitalist,  of  higher  rating,  who  would,  on  occasions,  burn  or  bang  their  own  car  or  get  it  stolen  in  order  to  buy  a  new  one  out  of  the  insurance  claim.  At  the  probability  rate  of  one  or  two  percent  there  would  be  a  couple  of  lucky  fellows  who  might  get  some  money  because of  accidental  death. 

Then  there  is  the  second  kind  of  institution,  the  stock  exchange  which  served  as  a  defensive  shield  against  price  slumps.  This  speculative  contraption  was  used  to  spread  out  the  ill-effects  of  deals  over  every  individual  of  the  community,  transferring  thereby  the  loss  coming  to  them  onto  the  community  once  again. 

This  brief  account,  it  is  hoped,  may  have  given  you  at  least  the  idea  that  bank  interest  and  the  business  it  helps  to  flourish  is  the  cause  of  want,  hunger  and  economic  incapacity  of  the  entire  humanity.  Of  course,  some  wealthy  individuals  have  their  wealth  further  increased through  this  method  which  results  in  the  unmaking  of  the  community  and  the  making  of  some  individuals  who  hold  the  key  to  the  accumulated  capital  of  the  country  or   nation  in  their  hands.  Generally governments  did  notice  this  enormously  disturbing  phenomena  but  the  cure  they  came  up  with  was  to  increase  the  income  tax  rate  for  big capitalists,  so  much  so  that  the  maximum  rate  was  set  almost  close  to  hundred  per  cent,  which  was  all  designed  to  funnel  capital  from  them back  into  the  national  treasury.

But,  as  a  result  of  such  laws  and  as  everyone  knows,  factories  and  businesses  started  maintaining  fictional  or  doctored  accounts.  In  order  to  hide  a  lot  of  capital  from  the  Government,  money  once  again  started  going  into  private  treasuries. 

To  sum  up,  it  is  universally  clear  that  concentration  of  wealth  in  the  captivating  hands  of  few  individuals  of  a  nation  is  highly  injurious  to  the  economic health  of  the  country.  This  is  why  income  tax  rates  are  pushed  so  high,  but  experience  bears  out  that  this  was  no  cure  to  the disease.  Maybe  the  reason  is  that  the  disease  was  not  correctly  diagnosed,  and  the  real  cause  remained  undiscovered.  This  sort  of treatment  reminds  one  of  the  Persian  line  saying:  ‘you  closed  the  door  for  safety  without  finding  out  that  the  enemy  was  sitting  inside  the house’.

The  reason  why  wealth  concentrates  in  the  hands  of  big  capitalists  is  nothing  but  interest-oriented  business  and  the  unjust  profiteering  from  national  wealth  by  particular  individuals.  Unless  we  put  an  end  to  this  in  accordance  with  the  teachings  of  Islam  and  unless  we  promote  the  practice  that  everyone  goes  in  business  with  ‘his’  capital  only,  this  disease  cannot  be  cured. 

A  doubt  and its  answer

The  question  arises  here  when  public  money  is  deposited  in  banks  some  benefit  does  trickle  on  to  people,  no  matter  how  little  it  may  be. Maybe,  the  big  capitalists  did  manage  to  extract  more  benefits  out  of it.  But  what  would  happen  if  this  system  of  depositing  money  in  the  banks  was  not  there?  The  whole  thing  will  end  up  being  what  it  was  in old  days  when  money  used  to  stay  in  underground  chests,  which  was  of  no  immediate  use  to  the  owner,  or  to  anybody  else. 

The  answer  to  this  is  that  Islam  has,  on  one  hand,  by  declaring  interest  or  –iba  to  be  haraam  (unlawful),  closed  the  door  on  the  concentration  of  national  wealth  in  the  hands  of  a  known  few  capitalists,  while  at  the  same  time,  it  has,  by  imposing  the  obligation  of  the  levy  of  zakah,  compelled  every  owner  of  the  above-threshold  capital  not  to  keep his  capital  frozen  but  invest  it  in  business.  Should  a  person  hoard  up  his  money  or  gold,  and  since  zakah  is  a  recurring  obligation  to  pay,  he will  still  be  giving  out  the  fortieth  part  of  his  holdings  as  zakah  every year,  as  a  result  of  which  whatever  he  has  will  not  be  there  anymore.  Therefore,  every  sane  person  will  have  to  put  his  capital  in  some  useful  enterprise,  enjoy  its  benefits  and  allow  others  to  share  it  with  him  and  then,  from  the  profit  that  he  makes,  he  pays  his  zakah  ‘properly’  as  required.

The  obligation of  zakah  ensures progress  in  business

We  know  that  paying  zakah  properly  has  a  great  utility  of  its  own.  It  aims  to  help  the  poor  and  the  needy  in  the  community.  Similarly, this  obligation  is  a  wonderful  method  of  persuading  people  to  go  in  business,  so  that  the  economic  status  of  Muslims  is  upgraded.  It  is  clear  when  everybody  realizes  that  frozen  capital  gets  no  profit,  on  the contrary,  the  fortieth  part  is  invariably  chiselled  away  at  the  end  of  each  year,  he  will  have  to  think  of  investing  his  money  in  some  business.  But  his  business  will  not  follow  the  model  of  one  man  running  a  business  on  the  strength  of  capital  supplied  by  millions  of people.  That  model  works  on  interest.  Since  marketing  money  is  haraam,  every  wealthy  person  will  seek  to  go  in  business  on  his  own.  And  when  it  so  happens  that  big  capitalists  are  left  with  no  choice  but  to  engage  in  business  supported  by  their  personal  capital,  those  with  a small  capital  will  not  face  the  sort  of  difficulties  in  business  take-offs  that  confronted  them  in  the  event  they  sought  bank  loans  on  interest  to  run  a  larger  business.  Thus  the  whole  country  will  benefit  by  the  universalization  of  business  and  its  profits.  When  this  happens,  the  poor  and  the  needy  in  the  country  would  certainly  become  beneficiaries  of  the  system.

Interest:  The  spiritual  ills:

Upto  this  point  we  were  talking  about  the  economic  destructivity  of  interest.  Now  let  us  see  how  interest-oriented  business  so  adversely affects  the  morals,  and  the  spiritual  potential  of  man:

1.  Sacrifice  and  generosity  are  great  qualities  in  human  morals. Giving  comfort  to  others  at  the  cost  of  personal  discomfort  is  wonderful.  Interest-loaded  business  invariably  leads  to  the  extinction  of  this  emotional  refinement.  A  compulsive  consumer  of  interest  would hardly  bear  to  see  somebody  else  rising  up  to  his  level  with  the  help  of  personal  effort  and  capital.  That  he  would  think  of  passing  some  benefit  to  somebody  from  his  resources  is  a  far  cry.

2.  Rather  than  be  merciful  to  the  distressed,  he  is  on  the  look  out  for  an  opportunity  to  take  undue  advantage  of  his  distress.

3.  The  constant  devouring  of  interest  results  in  increasing  greed  for  money  to  limits  where  he  is  all  intoxicated,  not  knowing  good  from  bad –  totally  heedless  of  the  sad  end  of  what  he  is  doing.

Is  it  impossible  to  run  a  business  without  interest?

A  discussion  of  the  nature  of  riba  and  the  ills  it  plants  and promotes  in  this  world  and  in  the  Hereafter  has  already  appeared  in some  details.  Now  remains  the  third  part  relating  to  the  solution  of  the  problem.  We  have  seen  its  economic  and  spiritual  drawbacks  and  we  know  clearly  that  it  has  been  strictly  forbidden  in  the  Qur’an  and Sunnah.  But  the  problem  is  that  riba,  of  all  the  things,  is  sitting  solid  as  the  sheet-anchor  of  business  in  contemporary  society.  This  is  the  wheel  on  which  runs  world  business.  How  can  we  get  free  from  its  hold?  These  are  times  when  getting  rid  of  the  banking  system  would  mean  closing  down  all  business.

This  can  be  answered  by  pointing  out  that  a  disease,  once  it  spreads  out  and  becomes  an  epidemic,  certainly  poses  problems. Treatment  does  become  difficult  but  useless  it  is  not.  Efforts  made  to  correct  the  system  do  succeed  finally.  However,  what  is  needed  in  the  process  is  patience,  steadfastness  and  courage.  It  is  in  the  noble Qur’an  itself  that  Allah  Almighty  has  also  said:

Allah  has  not  burdened  you  with  any  hardship  in  religion.   (22:78)

Therefore,  there  must  be  a  way  to  avoid  riba  in  which  there  is  no  economic  loss,  doors  of  national  and  international  business  are  not  closed,  and  salvation  from  riba  is  also  achieved. 

To  begin  with,  it  is  generally  thought  that,  given  the  governing  principles  of  banking  as  seen  from  the  outside,  banking  system depends  on  riba.  Without  it  the  banks  just  could  not  run.  But,  this thinking  is  categorically  incorrect.  The  banking  system  could  still  survive  as  it  is  even  without  riba.  It  could  rather  come  out  in  better  shape,  beneficial  and  useful.  However,  in  order  to  do  so,  it  is  necessary that  a  group  of  experts  in  Shari’ah  and  banking  should,  by  consultation  and  co-operation,  reconstruct  its  operating  principles.  With  their  proposals  and  projections,  success  will  not  remain  far. When  the  day  comes,  the  day  when  the  banking  system  is  run  on  the principle  of  Shari’ah, the  whole  world  will,  Inshallah,  witness  the  real  summum  bonum,  the  great  good  of  the  nation  and  the  community  it brings  in  its  wake.  However,  this  is  not  the  place  to  explain  these  principles  and  rules  based  on  which  the  banking  system  could  be  run without  riba.  

Riba  is  presently  ‘needed’  for  two  reasons.  If  needed  in  business,  that  can  be  taken  care  of  by  amending  the  current  banking  rules.  The second  compulsion,  why  the  poor  and  the  needy  get  involved  with  riba  or  interest,  is  that  of  their  inevitable  accidental  needs.  The  best solution  to  this  situation  is  already  present  in  Islam  in  the  form  of  zakah  and  obligatory  sadaqat.  But,  because  of  heedlessness  towards  religion  and  the  sources  of  its  knowledge,  even  the  system  of  zakah  has  been  left  inoperative  (or  ineffective).  There  is  a  countless  number  of  Muslims  who  do  not  think  of  zakah,  and  for  that  matter,  even  salah.  Those  who  do  pay  zakah,  specially  the  gentlemen  with  large  capital  holdings,  do  not  bother  to  calculate  strictly  and  thus  do  not  pay  the full  zakah  amount  due.  Then  there  are  those  who  do  pay  the  full amount  of  zakah  due,  but  their  doing  so  is  mechanical,  sort  of  getting  rid  of  it  by  taking  it  out  of  their  pockets  and  be  done  with.  Although  the  Divine  injunction,  does  not  simply  call  for  the  taking  out  of  zakah,  it  rather  bids  that  zakah  be  paid  properly  and  paying  properly  can  be  accomplished  correctly  only  when  it  is  carried  to  those  who  deserve  it and  who  are  given  proprietory  rights  over  it.  Now  let  us  imagine  how  many  Muslims  there  are  who  would  take  the  trouble  of  finding  the  deserving  and  then  arrange  to  have  their  zakah  reach  them?  No  matter  how  lacking  in  financial  resources  the  Muslim  ummah  may  be, but  should  it  be  that  every  zakah-obligated  Muslim  pays  his  zakah  fully  and  properly,  and  adopts  the  correct  method  of  so  paying  it  by  identifying  the  deserving  and  making  sure  that  they  receive  it  in  their hands  and  as  their  possession,  then  no  Muslim  will  ever  need  to  get  involved  with  interest-bearing  borrowing.  Of  course,  when  it  so  happens  that  a  just  Islamic  government  comes  into  being  and  operates  in  accordance  with  rules  laid  down  by  the  Shari’ah,  and  an  Islamic  Baytul-Mal  is  established  under  its  aegis,  and  in  which  is  deposited  the  zakah  of  amwal  zahirah  of  all  Muslims,  then  this  Baytul-Mal  can  take  care  of  the  need  of  everyone  needy.  Should  a  situation  call  for  a  larger  loan,  this  can  be  given  without  interest.  Similarly,  the unemployed  can  be  inducted  into  the  work  force  by  arranging  to  have  them  run  small  shops  and  stores  or  by  engaging  them  into  a  unit  of industry.  True  was  the  remark  made  by  some  European  expert  who  said  that  Muslims,  if  they  strictly  followed  the  system  of  zakah  they  have,  will  soon  find  that  there  is  nobody  poor  and  distressed  in  their community.

In  short,  just  because  practices  of  interest  have  spread  out  these  days  like  some  epidemic,  it  is  incorrect  to  take  for  granted  that  abandonment  of  interest-based  business  would  amount  to  economic  suicide,  and  therefore,  modern  man  is  helpless  when  involved  with interest-based  dealings  in  business. 

This  much  is,  however,  conceded  that  such  an  abandonment  is surely  difficult  for  one  or  many  individuals  unless  a  whole  nation,  or  a determined  major  party,  or  an  Islamic  government  itself  resolves  to  accomplish  this  objective  with  full  and  consistent  attention.  But  this phenomena  cannot  be  taken  as  an  excuse  for  justifying  riba  in principle.

What  has been  said  here  has  two  aims:

1.  Muslim  groups  and  governments  who  can  accomplish  this  task  correctly  should  focus  their  attention  in  this  direction  to  free  Muslims, rather  the  whole  world,  from  the  accursed  effects  of  interest.

2.  At  least,  all  of  us  should  start  knowing  what  is  right  and  correct  in  this  respect.  The  disease  should  be  recognized  as  a  disease.  Taking or  giving  interest  is  a  sin  but  taking  the  haraam  to  be  halaal  is  a  much greater  sin.  At  the  least,  this  could  be  avoided.  The  practical  sin  does  have  some  sort  of  outward  benefit  but  this  second  sin  against knowledge  and  belief,  that  effort  be  made  to  prove  interest  as  halaal, is  greater  than  the  first  one.  It  is  absurd  and  wasteful  as  well  because there  is  hardly  any  financial  loss  in  regarding  interest  as  haraam  and  confessing  any  involvement  with  it  as  sin.  Doing  so  will  close  no business  down.  But  the  confession  of  a  crime  does  become  fruitful when  one  gets  the  tawfiq  (God-given  ability)  to  repent  at  some  time  when  one  could  think  of  ways  to  avoid  it.

In  the  end,  I  present  some  ahadith  of  the  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  to further  strengthen  the  statement  of  above-mentioned  aims.  These  re-assert  the  same  Qur’anic  verses  where  riba  has  been  strongly  prohibited  and  where  warnings  of  severe  punishment  have  been  given  to  those  involved  in  it.  The  purpose  is  to  bring  about,  at  least,  a  sense  of  awakening  –  the  realization  that  a  sin  is  a  sin,  and  the  concern  that something  should  be  done  to  abstain  from  it.  Perhaps,  the  minimum  change  that  can  come  out  of  this  is  not  to  make  two  sins  out  of  one  by treating  the  haraam  as  halaal.  Thus  we  shall  be  saved  from  seeing  even  highly  righteous  and  observing  Muslims  who  would  spend  nights  in tahajjud  (pre-dawn  nafl  salah)  and  dhikr  of  Allah  (remembrance  of Allah),  yet  when  they  reach  their  store  or  factory  in  the  morning,  they  would  not  even  think  that,  by  indulging  in  dealings  of  interest  and gambling,  they  are  committing  some  sin!

Sayings  Of  The  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  About  Riba  or  Interest:

“Abstain  from  the  seven  disasters.”  The  people  asked  him: “What  are  they,  O  Messenger  of  Allah?”  He  replied:  “To  ascribe  partners  to  Allah,  to  practice  sorcery,  to  unjustly  kill  one  whom  Allah  has  declared  inviolable,  to  take  riba  (interest  or  usury),  to  exploit  the  property  of  an  orphan,  to  escape  at  the  time  of  war  and  to  slander  the  chaste  women  who  are  believers,  unwary.” (Bukhari, Muslim, Abu Dawud & Nasa’i)

This  night  I  saw  two  men  who  came  to  me  and  brought  me  to  a  sacred  land.  We  walked  until  we  reached  a  river  of  blood,  wherein  a  man  was  standing,  and  another  man  was  standing  on  the  bank  of  the  river  with  some  stones  before  him.  Then  the  man  who  was  standing  in  the  river  came  forward,  and  when  he  intended  to  come  out  of  the  river,  the  other  man  threw  a  stone  at  his  mouth,  and  turned  him  back  to  the  place  where  he  was  earlier  –  thus  he  began  to  do  the  same  with  him whenever  he  tried  to  come  out  of  the  river  by  throwing  a  stone  at  him  and  turning  him  back.  I  asked  him,  “What  is  that  which  I  have  just  seen  going  on?”  He  replied,  “He  is  the  one who  used  to  take  riba  (interest or  usury).   (Bukhari)

The  Messenger  of  Allah  cursed  the  one  who  accepts  riba (interest  or  usury), the  one  who  pays  it,  the  one  who  writes  it and  the  persons  who  gives  witness  to  it,  and  said,  “They  are  all  alike.” (Muslim) 

There  are  four  kinds  of  people  about  whom  Allah  has  decided not  to  admit  them  to  Paradise  and  not  to  let  them  taste  its bliss:  The  one  who  is  addicted  to  wine,  the  one  who  takes  the  riba,  the  one  who  exploits  the  property  of  an  orphan  and  the man  who  is  disobedient  to  his  parents. (Tirmidhi)

A  dirham  a  man  receives  as  riba  (interest  or  usury)  is,  in  the sight  of  Allah,  more  serious  than  thirty  three  acts  of  fornication  or  adultery  in  Islam. (Tabarani)

The  Holy  Prophet  (sallallaahu  alayhi  wasallam)  has  forbidden  the  fruits  to  be  sold  or  pur- chased  before  they  are  eatable,  and  said,  “When  zina (adultery) and  riba  (usury  or  interest)  become  rampant  in  the people  of  a  town  they  themselves  invite  the  punishment  of  Allah.   (Tirmidhi)

The  society  in  which  riba  becomes  rampant  is  punished  with  famine,  and  the  society  where  bribe  is  rampant  is  punished with  horror  (of  others).  (Ahmad)

On  the  night  (of  Ascension:  Mi’raj)  when  we  reached  the  seventh  sky,  I  looked  upwards  and  saw  thunder,  lightnings  and  thunder-claps.  Then  I  came  across  some  people  whose  stomachs  seemed  to  be  houses  full  of  snakes  –  one  could  see  them  from  the  the  outside  of  their  stomachs.  I  asked  Jibra’il: “Who are  they?”  He  replied:  “They  are  those  who  used  to  take  riba  (interest  or  usury).   (Ahmad)

Abstain  from  sins  which  are  not  forgiven:  Embezzling  of  the spoils,  for  whoever  embezzles  anything  will  come  with  it  on the  Day  of  Judgment,  and the  other  sin  is  riba.  

When  a  man  gives  a  loan  to  a  person  he  must  not  accept  a  gift (presented  by  the  debtor).   [Mishkat]

To sum up, presented here were seven verses of the Holy Qur’an and ten sayings from the ahadith of the noble Prophet (sallallaahu alayhi wasallam) which concern the definition of riba, and its nature, and point out to the disasters it brings in the world. This much is enough for a thinking and feeling Muslim. For those interested in a more comprehensive research on the subject and a more detailed discussion on the remaining aspects may see Mas’ala-i-sud, a separate book in Urdu on the problem of interest published by this humble writer.